Frank rolled over and sighed. His eyes quickly opened, then closed. Something had awakened him. " . . . Get up, Frank, you'll be late," his mother yelled again. He let his eyes slide back into a light sleep. She yelled upstairs once more, and he pulled the blanket tight. Frank is going to be late again for the start of classes at Eastern High School.
"We can't get him in the bed and when we get him in . . . " Frank's father said, "we can't get him out of bed."
Out of bed and standing in Eastern High's hallway in an olive Army fatigue jacket, smiking cigarettes, maybe a joint, or looking for "lucky seven from heaven" in a crap game on the stairs, Frank is one of the students who goes to Eastern High School almost every day but rarely enters a classroom.
By 9:30 a.m., a half-hour after school begins, Eastern's halls are doted with groups of students talking and joking, oblivious to first-period classes under way around them. Frank does not have to go to class to see his friends; they are in the halls where he falls in with them.
Frank is one of the "hall people," as an Eastern teacher describes a band of students who linger in the halls on any school day too cold for them to gather a few feet outside the school.
The "hall people" hide from teacher's view in one of Eastern's dozen or more doorways and walk down to the basement ramp for one or two class periods to catch a "buzz" on marijuana. In warm weather, they line the small brick wall that encircles the driveway. There they discuss love, sports, crime, parties, and how to do just enough work to pass in classes they ofted skip.
"I don't know why I be late a lot," Frank said. " . . . I just like to lay there (in bed) and think, you know, about - hmmm - like people get things and be popular . . . about how I could do things so they'd all know about me and wouldn't be telling me to do nothing because I'd have a briefcase, the suit, some money, you know, and they couldn't say nothing because of who I am.
"Look man," he said, "what's it take? You be on TV, then you're somebody: you got a car, some herb (marijuana). So give 'em to me then. But they talking about you got to do this, get A grades, and you can't be doing that because you ain't old enough. That ain't me, they don't know me, I'm different . . . Me, they don't know me." Frank is indeed one of the 70s' teenagers whom nobody seems to understand. Teachers and parents are equally baffled by the students' behavior and often turn on each other. Teachers blame parents and parents blame teachers in trying to explain what is wrong, or what went wrong and then all too often they end up debating whether anything is wrong in the first place.
Have these children being deprived or left unloved in some way? Or are they spoiled? Most of these teenagers are well-fed, have in some cases middle-class allowances or part-time jobs, have generally kind parents, phonograph records, sports and movies galore. So why do they consistently cut classes, stay high on drugs or alcohol, sleep all day and spend waking hours locked in their rooms or roaming the streets?
Teen-nagers of the 1970s are not like those of the 1960s. Teens such as Frank generally are apolitical, are into disco, stylish clothes and money, and want all the success and prestige the establishment has to offer. Few remember the 1960s or care about why students marched, held sit-ins and talked about revolution and going back to the earth or back to Africa.
Unlike teen-agers of the 1960s, Frank and his generation generally are tempted by hard drugs such as LSD and heroine. Marijuana, beer and hard liquor are as common as soda for Eastern High School students. They have a few drinks and get high at parties or whenever they want to be sure of having a good time at a concert, in class, at work, after work, in the stands at a game, watching television or making love.
In the parlance of the 197Os, Frank is "mellow." He constantly moves his shoulders from side-to-side in a bop as he stands talking, and he regularly pulls one thumb up to his mouth and licks it, before snapping his fingers. He is the guy for whom other students at Eastern stop to talk. Maybe they skip a class to hang around with him in the halls.
Frank knows "who's around and what's going down," as he says rhythmically. Carrying large, noisy radios and dressing in wild colors is not for him. Frank is into the mellow, understand look of windbreakers, army fatigue jackets, Hush Puppies or Italian designer shoes and fitted dungarees.
As he stands on Eastern's basement ramp, Frank is in his element: two clusters of students are smoking marijuana, lines of students are leaning against the wall talking and a small ring of dice throwers crouches in front of a doorway. Amid this activity, two seniors circle each other throwing mock punches.
In the three months after a reporter picked him out of that crowd and talked to him regularly, Frank was expelled from Eastern for nonattendance as the acting principal moved against the "hall people." He got into a fight and badly injured another Eastern student when he punched him in the eye. He applied for a job, took the test to get into the Army and thinks he failed. Then he induced his parents to return with him to Eastern so he could enroll again.
This time, Frank was registered as a student who attends academic classes at Eastern in the morning and works at a vocational trade each afternoon.
Despite the changes and his new schedule, Frank still is found in the school halls.
" . . . Unfortunately today we have a level of students," said Ray Hammond, one of Eastern's assistant principals "who don't know just exactly what they want to do. So they're not tying to advance intellectually, they're not trying to advance economically. They just don't know what's going on.
"I think this is the group we . . . really have to get to in order to start giving them some direction because if we don't . . . they'll be grown men and women and they'll have no direction.
"Unfortunately young students have lost so many values now, I think they don't take on the responsibilities they should and I'm afraid most of them are just hanging in limbo . . . (these students) are hooked up with having nothing but a good time, smoking pot, strung out, to hell with education, to hell with everything . . . " 'Want to Be Someone'
Despite having no college or job training, Frank says he immediately wants an apartment, money from a "big-time" job his friends will respect and to be in on anybody's plans - "like a consultant, because of who I am . . . But I want to be someone, you know, that they got to cover with first."
Frank wants to be on top now, not later, unlike the tough kids of the '50s and '60s who denounced the establishment. Frank's only problem with the establishment is that he is not recognized as someone for whom the establishment has been waiting eagerly.
To get on top, to impress the other "hall people," Frank may talk about his favourite drink, a jigger of hot sauce and a shot of tequila. He may say he is older than he is or tell about his "biggest problem . . . too many girls." Frank will tell his friends that he has been around and knows all about "it," all of "it." "It" could be anything.
" . . . I've done it," the Eastern senior said. "I've done all that stuff - been drunk, smoked and smoked, stayed up all night. I done it."
"I try to tell him," Frank's father said, "that being a man is more than staying out late, smoking pot and having women. I say, 'Frank, it is more than that. What if anything happens to me? You'd be the man of the house.' But he doesn't listen."
Frank and other "hall people" set a tone for Eastern that brings students out of classes and into the halls, denigrates hard work in the classroom and makes the school more a place where students hang out with friends than work to attain an education. School administrators do not know what to do with Frank or students like him.
When an administrator catches students gambling, they receive a lecture and any money recovered goes to the student government treasury. Students caught smoking usually are lectured and told to go to class. Administrators generally do not want to call police, a move that could created even more trouble in getting students into the classroom.
Throughout the school day, administrators walk the halls and try to disperse groups of class-cutters. For acting principal Gloria Adams, the "hall people" have become a problem that one counseler calls "as bad as the plague."
"Eastern is . . . a place for socializing," Adams said. "You know, you stop and wonder so often why you have a group of kids - percentage-wise as small as it is - who don't go to class but come (to Eastern) every day . . . When you stop and think about it, school is where the action is.
" . . . During the day time, the best way to spend your time is not at home by yourself. You have to go to school room.
The "hall people," according to Eastern teachers and administrators, also entice good students out of the classroom.
"Whereas we admit to a percent (about 360 students) real hard-core element in the halls . . . of that other 80 percent, a good number are succeeding in four or five classes but they're still hooking (cutting) one class, still goofing off out in the halls," said Jean Lofton, an Eastern counselor who has worked for 20 years in Washington schools. 'Enemy of Hall People'
Ernest Johnson, an Eastern assistant principal, is the great enemy of all "hall people," because he, too, knows the crannies where the "hall people" cluster, and he forces them back to class. He said peer pressure to be "hip" pushes good students out of the classroom.
"You may be doing all right in class but, if you have a friend and you continue to see him out in the halls, there is a tendency for him to draw you out there with him. Peer pressure is very, very high among students," Johnson said.
"So, once you get out there (in the halls), you've missed something in class. So, you go back in class, and the teacher asks you something and you feel stupid, you feel frustrated. So rather than face that daily embarrassment in front of your friends, you go hang out in the halls with your friends where you feel more comfortable and you enjoy yourself," he said.
In class, students who have missed a class or two while in the halls often are the students who are disruptive, play the clown, talk and constantly ask for a bathroom pass. The pass puts them back in the halls. The "hall people" set a tone for Eastern that touches everything there, including 10th graders just coming into the school.
" . . . When I was in the 10th grade," said Maurice Wright, a senior who cut almost half of his classes during the first 40-day advisory period of this school year, "the first thing I had in mind (was cuting) . . . The rumors . . . had been around that at Eastern you can go to classes when you want and you ain't have to go if you ain't want to. You just sit around or something like that . . . I came up here and did just that . . . "
Robert Kamp, the senior class president and an occasional class-cutter, said skipping classes occurs more in high school than ever before because school and education are not considered as important as they once were.
"Shooting dice and smoking," he said, "it's natural, it's natural."
"Back, you know, about 50 years ago, schools were hard and everybody wanted to go, so it was like a privilege, something special.
"It's nothing now, it's not hard now, man, it's not hard and they make you go, they say you got to have the diploma. And we get it free now, too, because . . . high school and all before that (elementary and junior high) is free . . . So all you need is a high school diploma, and it's not hard to get that like it was a long time ago. They know that, so they run it through their minds and see they can have a good time here."
Kemp is not disturbed by the marijuana smoking or gambling in the halls. "They might be some over here getting high," he said, "but, so what? They're not hurting nothing. It's just the smell of it that they (teachers and administrators) be turned off about. Students smoke in the halls because they don't have a lounge like the teachers. Bad break. If we had one of them, we wouldn't have nothing to worry about. Nothing. They might smoke reefer but at least it wouldn't be all in the building and going outside." Some Serious Problems
The problem of students who become "hall people" because they see school as nothing more than a place to meet their friends is compounded by other students who came to Eastern hounded by serious problems, such as poverty. They are distracted in the classroom and led inexorably into the halls.
"The social problems can be so great, and the pressures on the kids so great - what the heck, why do you expect them to sit up in a classroom? You find someone, he's hungry, or they're worrying about whether they're going to eat or pay the rent, welfare checks and babies . . . and you're talking (in class) about an amoeba. They could care less about that," said biology teacher Walter Brown.
Principal Adams said the problem of "hall people" may not be as severe as it appears to a parent who walks a hall at Eastern and sees 20 or 30 students joking and smoking.
"For every 30 students you see in the hallways, there are 30-times-14 students in the 14 classrooms along that hallway," she said.
Adams explained that Eastern's halls cannot be cleared by teachers or patrolling administrators because Eastern is a block long. If you get them out of one spot, they can go to the other end of the building."
The principal now is campaigning to force "hall people" out of the school by expelling students such as Frank who has a record of consistent class cutting.
After Frank was expelled, he did not find work to his liking. "No jobs for me out there. They won't even let you get on (hire you), and then if you do, they want you to take a whole bunch of orders, do this, do that . . . be some bosses . . . boy . . . I'm going to do it (get money and success), but I'm going to do it my way. I can do a lot, man, and it comes natural for me, right?" he said.
"Look, I can do this stuff in the classroom if I want to, like some of the little girls around here. But where's that take you? . . . college? Yeah, well, they got people out there working at nothing. Look, it's just people getting in your way, stopping you . . . College ain't going to get you nothin' for sure and neither is hard work. It's power and who's on top. That's what it is. You ask guys who be working," he said.
"They want you to lick the floors, man. You don't have to go to college to do that . . ."
Frank's desire for a meaningful and important job immediately is common among Eastern students.Most students who have never taken any math courses more taxing than one in problem solving and basic algebra claim to be on their way to becoming doctors, engineers and lawyers.
"They see success all around them," said Wayne Paige, a drafting teacher. "A lot of them will tell you Max Robinson (the WTOP newscaster) makes $125.000 for reading the news on TV. They expect they'll be able to do that. The see actors dancing across the movie screen and making big money, the music groups . . . So they want big money, too. But they don't realize the preparation involved."
Frank does not know what kind of work he wants to do but estimates that by the time he is 22 years old he will be making $40,000 a year.
His parents just want him to graduate from Eastern this year. 'A Favor to Graduate'
"I try to tell him education is important," Frank's father said. "He acts like he's doing me a favor to graduate. I try to tell him he's doing himself a favor. The only favor he's doing me is learning something so he could get a job and I wouldn't have to support him for the rest of my life."
"We try to get him to be part of the family. He won't go shopping. He wants everything on a silver platter. He wants everything, but he won't work for nothing. He won't go shopping like his sister. She knows if she jumps in the car she'll get what she wants. But not him. He'll stay home and tells you he needs this or that. You bring him something and most of the time he'll tell you he dosen't like it," Frank's father said.
Frank's father complained that his son will not take part in other family activities, such as cookouts.
Frank said later: "Look, who wants to sit around with them and eat burgers. I want to see where people are happening, right? . . . Where I can get into something new. Forget cookouts. That's for the Waltons. You don't see no stars on the Waltons. They're going to to know me."
Frank's mother said she feels her son is going through a troubled time but will straighten out. "He hasn't been interested in school since the eighth grade. But he's a good boy. He was doing very well in school before the eighth grade and was in acclerated classes, but then he fell in with the wrong friends. In the seventh grade, he was a standout. But he fell in with the wrong crowd at school," she said.
Frank's father said his wife loves Frank and makes excuses for him. "His mother says he gets depressed," the father said. "What's he got to get depressed about? He's had a beautiful life. He's got everything he wants, his own room, new clothes, . . . I didn't have a father, so I thought I'd be better.
"He had a model, so I thought he'd pick up on being responsible. It's this freedom thing. I don't think it does any good. I had to listen to my mother, or she'd whip me.To this day my mother will tell me whem I'm getting too far out of line," Frank's father said.
The father put part of the blame for Frank's problems on the school system. " . . . I think the teachers have given up on the kids because they're so hard to get through to.
School Superintendent Vincent E. Reed does not feel that parents of the "hall people" should be angry at the teachers, administrators or the school system.
"Everyone is to blame. It's a shared responsibility between the youngsters, the parents and the school. If they don't achieve, then everyone is saying, 'Poor little victim,' 'Look what they've done to him.' I don't go with that. In most cases the youngsters have not put out, exerted (themselves) to get an education. Others come through the system without any problem.
"But society is not putting pressure on youngsters to learn. We've let standards drop, used racism as a crutch. . . . Money to buy you the best tutoring service is an advantage. But having advantage dosen't mean that when you don't have it you go to rock bottom. It may make it tougher, but it dosen't mean you to go to rock bottom because you don't have it."
Whe he does go to classes, Frank rarely speaks and always sits in the back of the room. If several guys are seated together, Frank will join in their jokes and try to make himself the center of the action. But most often he says nothing. Little Work Produced
Evelyn Baugh, who taught Frank English, said that his work was not good and that he rarely came to class.
When she looked for a file on the work Frank has produced in her class, she realized she had not started one because Frank had not turned in enough work.
"He would be absent, and then he'd come to me after class and talk for a long time about whatever was on his mind. Then he'd promise to come to the next class, but usually he wouldn't be there," she said.
"How can you expect anyone to learn anything here?" asked a teacher who wished to remain anonymous. "The loudspeaker comes on with an announcement once a period, there's noise in the halls and most of the kids are comfortable sitting back and getting just enough to pass the test and say they got over in my course."
"Before, the primary goal in school was education. Now it's to motivate the student," teacher Wayne Paige said.
"Before," Paige said, "the person knew he had to learn . . . Education was an escape from a tedious sort of working-class job and poverty. It was something noble to out grandparents. To get an education was a privilege. Education has become a diploma," Paige said.
" . . . Somebody 15 or 16 years old has their own life style and values and ideas and, once they get here, you try to help and mold and shape a bit. But sometimes kids come here so removed from acting right . . . you know, like I said two or three people in class or in an assembly can disrupt can disrupt the whole situation and other kids pick up on those vibes . . . ," athletic coach Tillman Sease said.
Eastern teachers said they are forced to promote students who do not know enough to merit promotion. But no teacher will agree to let his or her name be attached to that admission.
"If a teacher in the seventh grade is having a knucklehead in the class, and he is acting crazy, she's not going to want him around next year so she's got to pass him on to the next teacher," Sease said.
Frank, who failed one of his five courses in the junior year, must take an extra courses this year to meet graduation requirements. Although Frank had cut at least half of his classes by December, in his first semester as a senior, his teachers said he could avoid failure in their courses as long as he came to some classes and turned in some work in January.
"Nothing is more important to these kids than graduation," said one of Frank's teachers who asked not to be named. "During senior year I go along with that by rarely failing seniors. If they got this far, why should they be disappointed now when everyone in this family expects them to graduate?" Cadges a Joint
By obtaining a bathroom pass after attendance is taken in any of his classes, Frank can spend most of the class period in the hallway without having a class cut noted on his record.
On December morning after he received a bathroom pass in his second period class, Frank walked down to the ramp in the basement.
He crumpled the written bathroom pass into a ball and threw it into a trash can, then walked with people on the ramp until he saw a friend that he knew had some marijuana.
Cajoling and begging in a loud and dramatic style - "Man, you know you owe me, why don't you give it up?" - Frank enticed his friend to pull out a small manila envelope, known as a nickel bag ($5 worth of marijuana) and lay enough marijuana in a thin white cigarette paper to make a joint.
After getting high, Frank wandered up the ramp, passed a biology lab class - "The smoke bothers me but I keep my door locked," the teacher said - and up to the auditorium.
An assistant principal in the auditorium was asking students why they were there, so Frank walked on into the annex behind the auditorium. There he opened the doors to a geometry classroom and looked in. The teacher looked at Frank but said nothing. Frank saw none of his friends, so he kept walking.
While wandering, Frank heard part of a drafting class, a geometry class and stood against the wall to watch one history teacher gesture wildly while lecturing a class. Then he looked through the glass windows in the door of Nancy Freelander's math class and eyed her.
Hearing laughter from the staircase next to Freelander's classroom, Frank pushed through the swinging doors to the landing atop the stairs and found five "hall people" playing craps.
Frank nodded to the circle of small-time gamblers and watched a young man on his knees slide 50 cents from the center of the floor into a small pile of dimes, nickels and quarters in front of him.
"Seven come eleven, right atcha, unh," one of the teen-age gamblers said. In the background, Freelender's voice and the sound of chalk scratching the blackboard could be heard.
"Gambling. This is a big thing if you say, 'I'm a gambler, I'm a hustler. I broke so and so.' (They're just) shooting for a quarter. But they're trying to be big time, trying to be a gambler. Lots of guys feel this is the thing to do," assistant principal Ernest Johnson said.
"They're always smoking over the stairwell," said Freelander, whose room was next door to the gamblers. "I went over there one day when I thought I saw someone smoking a cigarette, but, when I smelled it, it was marijuana. What can I do? I don't know his name. I don't know most of the students in this school, and I don't want them to do anything after three (o'clock) to me or my car," she said. Shop Courses Limited
Frank went downstairs to his third-period class, printing shop. Printing is the only vocational skill taught at Eastern. A large woodshop area is closed because it does not meet regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Eastern's only shop class is over-crowded. Students are sleeping, talking, going out to the ramp and are in various stages of printing projects, all at once. No teacher, even shop teacher Reggie Crews, who is "all right" with the "hall people", can control the criss-crossing currents of activity.
One day, while Crews was intent on a printing project, one of his male students left the shop to talk to two girls on the ramp near the print shop. Fists flew suddenly as the two girls began beating the young man. Crews stopped the fight by pulling the boy back into the shop.
Five minutes later, about 20 students, mostly "hall people," appeared in front of Crew's shop room to demand that the young man who had fought with the girls come out before they came to get him. Crews locked the shoop door and learned from his student that a member of the group outside was the boyfriend of one girl he had fought.
Crews called the school's main office from a phone in the shop and asked the school policeman, a 5th District officer, who patrols the area around the school and regularly checks with the principal, to come to the shop. Then he yelled outside to the angry youths that the police were coming.
The group milled about briefly and departed.
Although fighting is not a common problem at Eastern, that same day another fight, this one far more vicious, took place. A girl and her exboyfriend quareled as they passed en route to first-period classes. She grabbed one of his gloves and ripped it apart.
When they saw each other while leaving first-period classes, the argument erupted again. He pushed her. She flashed a razor and, as a friend of the girl grabbed the boy, she cut him once on the side of his face and sliced him across the abdomen.
A 10-day suspension for fighting followed for both students.
"He must've been slow," said Frank, when asked about the fight. "To let a girl do all that. She could've killed that . . . " 'Sugar Ray's a Hero
Frank claims to know his fighters. His favorite is Sugar Ray Leonard, who, according to Frank - "slow, man, slow hands" - an opinion about the speed of Sugar Ray's hands that is not widely shared.
"(Sugar Ray) is the hero around here (Eastern)," coach Sease said after Leonard had given a speech at Eastern urging students to stay in school and do what their teachers and parents tell them to do.
"You know, he (Leonard) fits the image that a lot of kids probably would hope to portray of themselves especially a lot of the fellows - sporting to women, you know, three piece suits and, you know, making a lot of money. Plus he can use his hands, so that fits the mold of what a lot of guys want to be about . . . " Sease said.
"You got to be a man," Frank said, explaining his interest in fighting. "A man don't have to take nothing off of no one."
Besides fighting, Frank claims his biggest interest in getting around town to house parties and discos and learning the street scene. Frank's Washington extends from Eastern, in Northeast, to his home in near Southeast, to house parties in Prince George's County and downtown to "The Room" disco, which caters to teen-agers. Along the way, he stops at McDonald's and Burger King which serve as clubhouses for today's high school students.
According to teachers and counselors, young men in their early 20s often return to Eastern seeking old friends and hangouts. Most graduates who were "hall people" at Eastern now have jobs that pay the minimum wage. Becoming a cashier at McDonald's is typical of such work, the teachers said.
"You'll find those students who graduated last year who are still unemployed (and) hanging around out front, smoking weed, talking to the ones that were in 11th grade when they (the hangers-on) were seniors," said city school board member John Warren.
"They'll be telling the younger ones 'Why you going to class, man? Ain't nothing going to happen. I been out here looking for a job, and I ain't found nothing."
" . . . Children are a mirror image of the people who made impressions on them," Warren said. "They are just like clay It's uncomfortable to realize the way they are at 12 or 16 is the way they have been made by us (and) what they've seen around them."
Next: Successful Eastern Students