"I wish I had a replica of the old B-CC for my kids to go to. I don't think anyone ever heard of pot, much less used it. Adolescence is hard enough to get through without that. "
-Montgomery county Circuit Court Judge John F. McAuliffe, B-CC Class of '50
He stood there in the rain, in his $25 shades, leaning against a wall across the street from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.
Glancing from side to side, looking quickly up and down the street, the 18-year-old senior coolly explained how he has earned more than $2,000 this year selling marijuana at B-CC.
"Dealing herb is safe, reliable and highly profitable," he said. "It's like the high school equivalent of trading baseball cards in elementary school. Nearly everyone's into it. It's the best marketplace around."
The student, who graduated with the class of '79 yesterday, was the biggest marijuana dealer among about a dozen regular dealers at B-CC. He ran his business like any merchant, keeping accurate books at home and sensing fluctuations in supply and demand.
He was also part of what is seen by teachers and administrators as a growing problem of discipline at B-CC. The log for the 1978-79 academic year at B-CC included:
Three disturbing drug muggings by outsiders of B-CC students. Two students were beaten and robbed in several incidents in a bathroom near the cafeteria. The third incident, in February, involved two teen-agers from another school, who approached a B-CC student, demanded marijuana and money and beat him. His assailants hung around the school for nearly a half-hour, demanding money and drugs from other students, before making their escape.
Seventy-two separate incidents of theft and locker burglary. Personal property losses exceeded $3,000.
A veritable epidemic of false fire alarms and class-cutting.
Countless other examples also attest to a problem. An English teacher tells of a student in her fourth period class who sometimes drinks a six-pack of beer for lunch and fills the classroom with an odor of alcohol.
Latin teacher James Downton recalls stepping out of his classroom last year to go upstairs, and finding two students engaged in a sex act on a landing. This year, he says he encountered two students seated a chair on a landing "in a clench."
"I told them to break it up, that it wasn't the place for that," says Downton, who last year suffered a heart attack and plans to retire at the end of this year. "They wouldn't. They just looked at me and said there was nothing wrong with what they were doing."
B-CC teachers and administrators point to 1969 as the year when discipline began breaking down at the school. That was when Montgomery County schools adopted a student rights handbook that eliminated dress codes and student smoking restrictions. It also listed a series of appeals and grievance procedures students could use if they were suspended or expelled.
"It was all part of a rippling effect from turmoil in college campuses," says Myron B. Michaelson, head of student affairs for county schools. "They (students) became much more socially conscious, clamoring for rights just as other groups around the country were clamoring for theirs."
The handbook stipulates that suspended students must be given an informal hearing before the assistant principal and hear the evidence against them.
Once suspended, a student can appeal the decision to the principal; then to the area associate superintendent; then to the superintendent, and finally to the board of education.
It's a time-consuming, laborious process requiring concrete evidence of delinquent student behaviour.
"It's used to be a simple matter to suspend a kid," says B-CC English teacher Elizabeth S. Laython. "If a child talked back to a teacher, he was gone. Now, you've got to be totally insubordinate to be suspended. And even then, you've (the faculty member) got to have facts."
As a result, administrators seeking to avoid bureaucratic entanglements are hesitant to discipline students.
"We are infinitely patient with them," says social studies teacher Robert B. Appleton.
Some teachers, like Martina Howe, a 22-year chemistry instructor, arrive in their rooms early and remain there until the end of the day, taking lunch at their desks.
"I see kinds roaming the halls, but I just won't be bothered," she says.
David Hedges, the school business manager, and Robert Williams, B-CC's security assistant, have taken on some of the functions of a tiny police department.
Williams is charged with moving students out of the hallways and into class. Hedges compiles statistics on school theft and vandalism, and devises strategies to catch locker burglars and students who pull false fire alarms.
Williams is credited with breaking up fist fights, bathroom crap games and cafeteria poker sessions. Occasionally he has even confiscated joints of marijuana. But he admits the job is overwhelming. "I can't be everywhere at once," Williams says.
A strapping, amiable man, Williams' only problem - according to some teachers - is that he just likes students too much. Often, he can be found hobnobbing with students in B-CC hallways.
But he is strongly supported by principal Thornton F. Lauriat.
"Bob's role is an incredible paradox," he said. "It's the exact antithesis of what the school is supposed to be about. He's supposed to have good rapport with students but also be some kind of heavy. The kids like him and he likes the kids. I value that more than anything else," he says.
One recent morning Williams approached four students who were talking with a reporter on the school's front steps. He ordered them to move on and they smiled and slowly entered the door.
Senior Sam Sharata laughed and patted Williams on the back. "This is Mr. Williams," he said. "He's cool. He guides us through life." Williams couldn't help smiling.
Hedges, the school business manager, later rummaged through a file of papers in his cluttered first-floor office like a man possessed. A soft-spoken blond with clear blue, innocent eyes, Hedges rattled off school vandalism statistics.
"Let's see," he says, "Sinks pulled off of walls, dozens of false fire alarms, three tape recorders, ten purses, 21 down jackets, 13 wallets, three musical instruments, one camera, $350 in cash. In seventy-two different incidents."
"And that doesn't count the graffiti," he goes on. "It used to be stuff like the class of whatever was the greatest in the world. Now it's more personal. It's what so and so is doing to so and so."
He then points to several combination locks, which were bashed and pried off lockers by student burglars.
"They case the lockers, see, and wait till nobody's around. Then they take pipes or screwdrivers or something and just rip the thing off.
"I know ten guys here who are responsible for the thefts," he says. "I've questioned them and they deny. What can I do? I have no proof and students won't fink on other students."
Hedges has tried hardest, perhaps, to cut down on the number of false fire alarms. During a reporter's recent stay, the alarms rang three times in five days.
It got to the point where the county fire department refused to come to the school. So Hedges came up with a brilliant plan. He equipped five school fire alarms with a device that would spray purple dust on the hands that pulled the alarms.
"It didn't work," he said. "We started chasing secretaries. Their hands were purple from the ditto machines."
So he tried orange dust. The students used gloves.
Last year, a reporter for B-CC's award-winning newspaper, the Tattler, went around school with $75 hoping to write an investigative piece about the availability of drugs.
He expected the money to last perhaps a week. But he was able to purchase $75 of marijuana at B-CC within four hours.
Generally, students smoke marijuana before school or during lunch, in select outdoor hideaways, in student automobiles or discretely on out-door bleachers. But students say they have also seen marijuana smoked in bathrooms, the library, the weightlifting room, the gymnasium, the stair-wells and the front steps outside the main office.
One marijuana dealer at B-CC claims even he is shocked at how openly some students display or smoke marijuana.
"They're just asking for it," he says. "I've seen herb cleaned right in class. It's amazing how brazen some kids are, especially after the busts."
The "busts" were the drug raids Montgomery County police conducted last September as part of a general crackdown on drug use at county schools. In two separate raids, police arrested 12 B-CC students.
B-CC was the first school police raided, and the raid attracted more notoriety than those subsequently held at other schools.
An image of B-CC as "a drug school," dating from the '60s when marijuana use on front lawns was common, was hauntingly reborn.
But to students, drugs at B-CC are no more common than at other schools. "We just happen to get stuck with the label because we're so visible. People drive by East-West Highway and see longhairs out on the front steps," one student says.
Wendy Hoben, a B-CC senior who compiled a student handbook on the police crackdown last fall which was published recently by the Montgomery County human relations commission, said she found in her research that drug use at B-CC is no more wide-spread than at other schools.
"It's just that we have that stigma," she says. "I was at a school in D.C. once talking to students. When they found out I was from B-CC, they started asking where they could get dope."
Since the raids, marijuana smokers for the most part have gone udnerground. No longer is marijuana displayed or smoked on the front lawn or front steps.
While the drug problem at B-CC gets the headlines, teachers feel an even bigger problem is that of students cutting classes.
According to school policy, once a student reaches nine unexcused absences in a semester, he is supposed to lose credit for the course. But even that policy is loosely interpreted at B-CC, which has made the limit an even ten. And according to teachers, some counselors allow students who have lost credit to make up course work on their own time.
"No one really pays attention to that policy," says Susan Foord, an ex-CIA employe who came to B-CC two years ago as a math teacher. "At semester break I see teachers in the lounge making up numbers of absences right out of the blue for their gradebooks because they haven't been keeping attendance during the term."
Foord says counselors are supposed to take some form of action once a student piles up three unexcused absences - calling for parental or student conferences.
"All they ever do is send a form letter home saying your son is in danger of such and such," she says. "It doesn't mean a thing. They should care more. . . . Talk to kids and parents and make them see what's happening."
Foord, also places some of the responsibility on the principal who she says sets the disciplinary tone for the school. I had just come from a very strict junior high when I came here," she says. "That place was a tight ship. You could hear a pin drop. I talked to Lauriat about the (hall culture) and class cutters because I was up in arms."
Lauriat - the tranquil, genial man who has been B-CC's principal since 1974 - at Foord's urging, roamed the halls before first period earlier this year to discover why so many students were tardy or absent. He found that some teachers themselves were tardy for class.
"It's kind of hard to have discipline if the teachers aren't around," he says with a wry smile.
Lauriat is praised by some and faulted by others for paying too much attention to students' complaints and grievances.
"He allows kids to bitch and dump whatever loads they have into his lap," says one school official who asked to remain anonymous. More than any other principal I know, he listens to them."
So sensitive is Lauriat to infringements on student freedoms that although he disapproves of graffiti he suggested during a recent PTA meeting that officials earmark a school wall for year-end graffiti as part of an effort to dissuade seniors from tackling the school roof. The roof, he contended, was not only hazardous to scale but is already blanketed by graffiti from previous graduating classes.
"One of the biggest compliments I've had here was from a person who visited the school and said, 'Thorn, you have one bunch of laid-back kids.' And he was right," says Lauriat. "Kids handle freedom in themselves very well. I don't get a sense of anger here.
"I don't think I've lost control of the school," he goes on. "I think . . . we are a bit out of balance. But posting guards at every door is not what education is supposed to be about."
Not all teachers, however, by any means share Lauriat's "laid-back" attitude.
Nancy J. Gallagher, an English teacher, looks out a second-floor window at a group of students sprawled on the lawn and shakes her head.
"There was a time when if you'd ask someone why he was in the hall, he was on a legitimate errand," she says. "You'll likely find yourself in a confrontation these days. And it's just so draining. It makes for early retirements." CAPTION: Picture, Students lounge in hallway outside library at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. Unauthorized use of hallways is not one of the school's major problems. Photos by James A. Parcell - The Washington Post*