You are hereby notified that Amanda Lee is forbidden to enter upon the property or structures of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. In addition, you are forbidden to be present at any school related activity on or off campus.
Failure to comply with this notice shall result in the application for your arrest for the crime of trespassing. A person guilty of this crime is subject to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars, imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both.
As I sat in B-CC's In-School Suspension (ISS) room reading the security guard's letter, I still couldn't believe that my situation had escalated to such a serious point.
On a Silver Chips mission to explore the contrasts between life at B-CC and at Blair, I ventured into B-CC hoping to examine the school's reputation as a world of wealth and white homogeneity. In a matter of hours, I found myself in a world of trouble instead.
Hats and IDs and Chipotle, oh my!
My adventure began innocently enough. After making arrangements with the B-CC's newspaper, The Tattler, to shadow senior Louisa Powell, I arrived at the school on the morning of Nov. 19. Staking out a prime observation spot in the school's front lobby, I was prepared to take notes on popped polo shirt collars, pearls and expensive cars pulling into the student parking lot.
As dozens of students streamed past me in the hallway, one visible contrast to Blair within the B-CC population stood out: White students dominated the landscape. The school is nearly 66 percent white, a ratio exceeding Blair's 28 percent white demographic.
But in the gray morning light before first period, B-CC's sleepy Barons acted and dressed no differently than the bleary-eyed Blazers shuffling into the SAC each day. The students filed out of sooty school buses and jostled through the front entrance's glass-paneled double doors, sporting athletic jerseys, jeans, sneakers and sweatpants.
Not all dress codes are created equal, however, and while we Blazers must go hatless and wear our IDs, students walked into B-CC's sweeping, semi-circular foyer wearing baseball caps and bandanas, with nary an ID in sight. Neither hats nor IDs raise security issues in a school less than half the size of Blair, with an enrollment of only 1,608 in 2003. In a clever attempt to blend in with the crowd, I myself donned a hat and gladly gave up my student ID for the day.
Alas, my ingenious disguise did not stop an old friend, B-CC's SGA President Josh Rosenthal, from recognizing me in the hallway. After exchanging our what's ups, we made plans to participate later that day in yet another envious B-CC policy: open lunch. The school's location in the midst of high-rise buildings and urban storefronts means that popular restaurants like Chipotle, McDonald's and Quizno's are a mere hop, skip and jump across East-West Highway.
Tangled in red tape
Just a few minutes after Rosenthal left for class, I spotted Powell strolling into school. Holding a cup of coffee and modestly dressed in a T-shirt, jeans, flip flops and a khaki jacket, Powell looked as casual as any high school senior in the county. We made a beeline for the main office so that I could sign in.
But no one in B-CC's security or administration was pleased to hear about my plans to shadow Powell.
After conferring with B-CC Principal Sean Bulson, secretary Joan Black curtly informed me that without the proper approval and a week's notice, I could not stay on school property.
Powell and I quickly excused ourselves to her first-period Peace Studies class, so that we could confer with The Tattler editor-in-chief Zahra Hirji. Hesitantly, tentatively, Powell, Hirji and I agreed on a rudimentary ruse for me to keep observing the school whilst eluding B-CC security. During first period, I waited in an empty computer lab used for The Tattler.
After Peace Studies, Hirji met me in the computer lab with worrying news. B-CC's burly, no-nonsense Security Team Leader Ron Joyner had come into her Peace Studies class looking for me. Alarmed at the threat I posed to B-CC's security, we both agreed that it was definitely time for me to scram.
I was so close to actually leaving.
Coulda, woulda, shoulda
On my way out the door, I struck up a conversation with B-CC Audio-Visual Specialist and Paul Ormsby. I could have left, but being the daring, devil-may-care reporter that I am, I couldn't resist another great source.
Ormsby stresses B-CC's diversity. "B-CC is almost a microcosm of the D.C. metropolitan area,” he says. "You have the affluence, you have the low income and you have the average.” However, B-CC's underprivileged population does not compare to the number of low-income students at schools like Blair. Whereas only eight percent of B-CC's students have ever qualified for the Free and Reduced Meal System (FARMS), over 21 percent of Blair falls into the FARMS category.
B-CC's renown as a hub of wealth and resources also has to do with its unusually active PTSA and the school's location in the heart of Bethesda, adds Ormsby. "Our parents are very, very active,” he says. "They can go to businesses right outside of the school and say, 'Listen, we need a computer lab. You have the money we need.'”
As we walked through the school's halls, Ormsby pointed out a neon sign hanging just outside the cafeteria, glowing red with the words, "Cyber Café.” In 2002 and 2003, B-CC raised over $172,000 to completely fund and maintain the cozy computer lab, equipped with a cappuccino machine, printer, 16 flat-screen monitors and broadband Internet access. But by now, the Cyber Café was old news for B-CC. Ormsby steered me towards the school's most recent display of opulence tucked away in a hallway on the second floor.
Peering through the door window of an empty converted classroom, my eyes widened at the sight of the county's first language lab. This past year, B-CC raised $84,000 to design a room outfitted with 32 sleek monitors perched next to 32 sets of headphones, hiding 32 consoles that pop out of specially-designed tables.
After a half hour, I finally bid Ormsby adieu. As I made my way out a back door, I heard Ormsby behind me"and my heart stopped. "Good morning, Mr. Joyner.” I turned around and found myself face to face with an angry Joyner looking at me in disbelief and displeasure. "I've been looking for you,” he said sternly. "Mr. Ormsby, this young lady's not supposed to be here.”
Explanations and apologies spilled out of my mouth as I tried desperately to assuage Joyner's aggravation. "I'm tired of hearing 'I'm sorry,'” he bellowed. "We're going to call your administrator, and I'm going to make sure you get suspended.”
After contacting Blair Administrator Patricia Hurley and my parents, Joyner escorted me to B-CC's ISS room, where I read over and over again the trespass warning letter that Joyner had issued to me.
When my parents came to pick me up, looking about as happy as Joyner had been to find me, I looked back again at B-CC's vast brick and granite entranceway and took off my hat. From now on, I'll stick to being a Blazer.
Amanda Lee. Amanda Lee is excited to be a junior staffer and page editor this year! When she's not working on Silver Chips, Amanda LOVES "The West Wing," Chipotle burritos, and her family. She is also interested in improving her guitar skills and loves rowing on the … More »