In 1789, delegates from the 13 states of a new nation created a Constitution that established policies which had never before been seen. One of those policies guaranteed a complete seperation of Church and State.
However, almost 210 years later, the relationship between public school and religion is still unclear.
What must be realized is that religious practice in school is against the very basic policies of our nation. In a country as diverse as the United States, openly observing any religion in a school has the possibility of inflicting offense onto others. School should be a place where students feel comfortable to learn and achieve. No student should have to learn to deal with feelings of discomfort based on the actions of a fellow classmate.
At this point, it would be wise to advise you to not misinterpret the point of this article. In no way does it intend malice toward the Christian faith nor any religious faith in that matter, nor does it intend to vilify on-campus religious groups, such as Alive.
The intentions of most widely-accepted religions are nothing but benign and a silent, discreet prayer is acceptable, but worship should not take place in an area where others can take offense to it.
Often times, openly practicing religion at school can be found to be discomforting, or even offensive. One such example occured earlier this year in an activity sponsored by Saratoga High's Alive club. In this activity, groups of Christian teens gathered together to pray during tutorial in front of the school's main enterance.
Harmless as this event may have seemed, it nonetheless sparked feelings of discomfort from Christians and non-Christians alike. Many students felt uncomfortable walking past the group. Others felt excluded by the congregation of over 30 students crowding the entrance.
Junior Alive member Ceron Rhee said in its defense that the exercise wasn't meant to harm anyone. That they were merely in their own little world. Yet, to non-Christians, this open practice could have been interpreted as an open advocacy of the Christian faith. Though the event may have inflicted no actual harm, it nonetheless resulted in discomfort.
Using religion for charity and education is commendable, but practicing religion at school should not be allowed. Though those practicing the religion may intend no malice toward others, the fact that they are exercising religion could potentially cause exclusion and discomfort.
But if a religion is practiced in open view causing others to feel uncomfortable or excluded, that should not be allowed. If flyers are being passed out inviting students to attend an off-campus religious activity, that too can be offensive. Students are forbidden by school rules to pass out flyers advertising a party off-campus. Why should religion be an exception?
Though religion may be one of the greatest aspects of human society, it can also be one of the most volatile. Differences in religious opinion spark flames of tension to this very day _ tension that is simply adverse to a learning environment. So come to school, ready to learn in an environment that's neither uncomfortable nor exclusive...and leave worship in the privacy of home.
On Nov. 12, 1998, East Plano High School senior Tyler Marsten found his way on the record books of Plano, Texas; Marsten had become the 19th East Plano High student in three years to die of a heroin overdose.
One would find little in Plano that could provoke such tragedy. An affluent town of upper-middle class residents with a population of about 200,000, Plano is quiet and quaint, containing few fast-food restaurants and even fewer street lamps.
Fortunately, students in the quiet town of Saratoga have no stories of such tragic proportions to recall; drug abuse and risky teen behavior are far from reaching any scale comparable to that of East Plano High.
Nevertheless, this problem does exist. According to a survey conducted by the Saratoga Falcon, 25 percent of students have used marijuana, 11 percent have experimented with other drugs, and 16 percent have had sexual intercourse, about half of which was unprotected.
The only way to reach the root of the problem is through effective education and advocacy through school cirriculums, which Saratoga High attempts to fulfill through the mandatory State Requirements course.
This problem must be addressed at a younger age. Yet, such a cirriculum is currently lacking at Redwood Middle School, where it would be most effective. Though students participate in an annual Red Ribbon Week, the actual aftermath of drug addiction is rarely addressed.
In contrast, elementary schools employ a more active anti-drug campaign. Such advocacy, however, needs to be applied in a middle school where students can more easily understand and relate to such issues.
The one-week course on sexual education held annually at Redwood focuses partially on human anatomy and partially on safe sex practices, but it is simply not sufficient to make an impact.
One Redwood student added that during the few days in which safe sex was explained, not once did the teacher mention the virtues of abstinence to the class.
The community and district need to do more to emphasize the needs for responsible behavior. Obviously, education is no elixir that will remedy all of society's ills; some individuals will continue their behavior regardless of education. Yet, there is no excuse to put drug and safe sex education on the backburner.
Statistics have shown that risky teen behavior is not only relevant at Saratoga High, it is a major cause for concern. If the community is to curb this rising trend, changes in the approach of such issues need to be made before Saratoga, like Plano, Texas, becomes yet another record in the books.
For most students, school begins with the first bell of the day and ends with the last, but for 228 pupils in the Lakota district and roughly 1.5 million nationwide, the structure of a typical school day is anything but typical.
These are home-schooled students, and their reasons for dropping out of standard educational systems are almost as varied as the hours which they keep.
While some families want more time together, others focus on the special needs of children, and still others hope to instill values that they feel are not addressed in public or even private schools. Nearly all seek more control over the education of their children.
"With home schooling, you can take your child's learning style and develop curriculum that fits how your child learns best. You're not trying to put a square peg in a round hole," said Sheri Cramer, whose ninth-grade son Jordan recently left public schooling to enroll under a new part-time policy adopted by the Lakota Board of Education last August.
Under the policy, home-schooled students can enroll in up to two classes in the district each year and take part in extracurricular activities while maintaining their home-schooled status.
"Through the policy, Jordan gets the best of both worlds - he can still take part in school activities, but can work at his own pace and get individual attention also," says Cramer.
It is this individualization that draws families to home schooling.
"Because of the direct one-on-one interaction, you can tell if material is too boring or too difficult for your child and can make adjustments to that," says West Chester CHEC(Christian Home Education of Cincinnati) support group leader Susan Schechter, who has home schooled her two children for eight years.
"I've always felt that I was able to do with home schooling what most teachers would like to do if they had the time and money."
While expenses are not always a problem for home schoolers, they receive no financial aid from the government, and come from mostly single-paycheck families so that one parent can teach at home.
"The idea is for parents to participate and share the skills they have with others so that we (home schooling families) don't have to hire as many teachers," says Schechter.
For the majority of home schoolers, the primary teacher is the parent, though many are involved in home-schooling co-ops for special classes or hire private tutors for difficult subjects.
Nevertheless, the qualifications necessary for home-schooling teachers raises another question for educators.
Under Ohio law (home school requirements are regulated by each state) the teacher of a home-schooled student need only have a high school diploma, a GED, or test scores showing a high school equivalecy in order to teach their child.
"A major concern is: how qualified are parents to teach (home schooled students)?" says Wright State Assistant Director of Admissions Anne Skuce. "We can at least ensure that people coming out of public school have some accredited teaching. We just don't know what kind of an education home schoolers have had."
Curriculum for home schoolers varies nearly as much as the teachers who present it. There are literally hundreds of options to choose from for teaching material - books, videos, computer or audio programs, and packaged lesson plans put out by dozens of companies. In addition, there are many home schooling networks, co-ops, and agencies which do everything for home schoolers from organizing field trips to offering transcripts awarded for standardized courses of study.
"It all depends on mom and dad's involvement, or lack of involvement, and the integrity of the parents - how honest they were with themselves when grading their child," says consultant Mark Sebastian of the Ohio Department of Education.
Teaching can pose new challenges for parents who double as teachers.
"Everybody thinks that being a teacher is easy until they try it. If people sat down and saw what teachers do to prepare each dday, they'd be amazed," says Lakota East teacher Audrey Stamp, who has experienced teaching her own sons in the classroom. "It's harder to be ofjective with your kids." This is only one of the changes that home schooling brings.
"Sometimes it was hard having the same person as a mom and teacher, but if I understood something we could move on right away. There was less busy work," says Lakota East senior Nathan Hively, who was completely home schooled up until this year. He says that the benefits of home schooling outweigh the drawbacks.
"It's not just a 'made-up' education. To get the same amount of education, it only takes half the time because you get the information right away instead of trying to guess at what a teacher is saying," says Hively.
According to Hively, home schooling lends itself well to the scheduling constraints of activities that he is involved in, such as swimming.
"Home schooling allowed me to train a lot more, because I could schedule my schoolwork any time. When you have goals already set in life and you have to reschedule them to fit the system around you, it gets annoying really fast. In public school, sometimes I feel like I'm learning a system more than the material," he says.
Other students have had to adjust to a home schooling environment after coming from a public school sytem, like Lakota East sophomore Kendra Niland, who was home schooled for three years.
"Home schooling is question-based, not answer based. At school, the teacher gives you the assignment; at home schooling, she tells you to go get it. It just depends on the person and how they want to learn. Someone used to spoon-feeding might not learn well in a home-schooling environment," says Niland.
Stamp agrees that most home schoolers need to have special qualities.
"Although they usually have to adjust to the standrads that are set in the classroom, the ones I have dealt with have a superior work ethic and are serious about schooling," she says.
Often times this means that studens take a more active role in their learning, whether it means picking out curriculum, scheduling field trips, or pursuing special interests.
"Home schooling gives students the opportunity to be independent learners because they have to take responsibility for their education themselves." says Schechter.
Even so, the laws which allow for so much freedom of schooling in Ohio have their downside, according to some administrators.
"The policy that the state has is very vague, which can be detrimental to students who can't handle the system," says U.C. Admissions Officer Ric Stackpole. "If someone is pretty well-versed in home schooling, and is involved in a structured home school program, they can succeed, but if a person is new to home schooling and doesn't understand what it takes...that's where we run into problems."
According to Schechter, home schooling takes determination on the part of both the parent and the student, and the decision to home school is not made lightly.
"Looking out for the education of a child is a big responsibility that needs to be taken care of, and a parent decides best how to do that for their children. If you are committed to it, you can get through any difficulities that arise," says Schechter.
Despite this confidence, there are always doubts for parents.
"Sometimes I wonder, 'Is this the right thing to do?' " says Cramer. "It's something difficult, but as the year has progressed, I see Jordan becoming a more independenct thinker who takes initiative. There is a more open communication between us now because there isn't the peer pressure."
Schechter also sees home schooling as an opportunity to direct the interaction of her children.
"As a parent, I try to keep super-negative influences away from my kids. Through home schooling you can control destructive influences, and students are not as dependent on their peers for their opinions," says Schechter.
"You pick your friends based on who you like rather than who you have to be with," says Hively. Nevertheless, the home-schooling environment presents complications for some students.
"It's harder to get to know people well. There were a lot of people that I couldn't connect with in home schooling. There's not always a huge variety," says Niland.
Though Niland says that there are many opportunities for home schoolers to participate in activities - from home schooling sports teams to community courses and field trips - it can be difficult.
"In home schooling you have to have a network to do most things. The opportunitites at school are easier to get involved with because they are right there," says Niland.
Stamp says that it is the availablity of opportunities in public schools that cannot be had in a home-schooling experience.
"There are lessons learned in high school that help you when you get to the real world. Doors are opened to you that you never thought would come your way - the experience is invaluable," she says.
Because home schoolers are not involved in a traditional school environment, critics often worry that they lack the necessary skills of interaction and socialization.
"The may not be accustomed to group work and that's what college is all about," says Skuce. For Xavier freshman Patrick DeHoff, home schooled since kindergarten, there are not problems with social involvement in college.
"As a home schooler, I didn't always see the same people every day. I learned how to interact well with different groups," he says.
However, when it comes to the college level, it is not only the social side of peer interaction which is helpful, but the competitive side, according to Skuce.
"The lack of interaction can be detrimental at college because the student may not be used to having other students around to challenge them. They're held to a different standard when there is only one in their class, though they are willing to take on a more active role in learning. Success is a matter of maturity level," says Skuce.
The main difficulty arises when colleges have to look at home-schooled students through the admissions process.
"You just can't compare them to traditional students because they haven't gone the traditional route," says Stackpole.
Each college has individual requirements that must be met by home-schooled students - ranging from GEDs to curriculum to specific test scores.
"Admissions' biggest concern revolves around their ability to assess how home schooled students can perform in college. Generally, there are few indicators to make those judgment calls," says Sebastian...(Test scores are) important to a home schooler's portfolio because there is no class rank or grade point average to offset a home-schooled student's record. In addition, home-schooled students do not always have access to scholarships and grants that other sutdents are eligible for.
"I don't think that I've missed out on anything with home schooling," says DeHoff. "I almost think that other people have been missing out. As a home schooler, you learn to get the work done and then play. I find that I'm pretty self-reliant because of home schooling."
In spite of the advantages, some parents voice concern about the exposure of home-schooled students.
"I worry sometimes about kids who are completely home schooled. You don't have to take part in everything the world does, but you have to live in the world. In home schooling, parents can block out things they don't want their children to be exposed to until they're ready for it. It takes time for home schooling to be successful," says Cramer.
Schechter believes that home schooling actually helps students to cope with the world.
"If they (home schooled students) aren't independent and self-motivated to begin with, they develop those traits through home schooling. You can't always be dependent on others, and I hope with home schooling they've been prepared for the world," she says. In the end, it all depends upon the commitment of the student and the parent, according to Stamp.
"We all want a right or wrong answer, but there isn't one. It all goes back to the individual. You just have to go at eduation wholeheartedly so that you have no regrets."
Her eyes are moist as the scans the faded list of names.
"Myrtle...gone, Elizabeth...gone, Virginia...gone; am I the only one left?" she finished with a sigh.
For Dorothy Aufranc, the dog-eared roster of the West Chester girls' basketball team of 1933-34 is more than just history.
It's part of her life.
As a student in the former West Chester school district, Aufranc played basketball for six years on the interscholastic girls' team started at Union Township School (now Union Elementary) in 1924. Following an era rampant with Victorian notions of female delicacy, the West Chester team opened up new opportunities for girls to become involved in athletics.
"Most girls weren't that active, but I was a tomboy. I would rather be out in the field with my dad than in the kitchen with my mom," says Aufranc, who maintains that most girls on her team were just as spirited.
"We could do it and none of us ever complained. We were all there for the same purpose - to win a ball game for our school," she says with pride.
In a decade of expanding freedom for women's athletics ranging from school sports to the Olympics, most community members supported the new team.
"They (the female players) were well-accepted, although there were still a few prudes," says Bill Shepherd, Aufranc's cousin and himself a player on the West Chester boys' team in the late 1920s.
According to Shepherd what little controversity existed, stemmed not from the fact that girls could play, but from their uniforms, which consisted of pleated bloomers and a blouse before changing to knee-shorts and then one-piece rompers.
"Naturally, girls were not even supposed to show their legs. They (community members) raised their eyebrows at first, but they got used to it," laughs Nan Ring, one of the last living members of the 1929 Butler County championship team. "It was something else."
Not only were the standards of dress different, but the fundamental rules of the game were a far cry from the universal rules the boys played by. Initially, the court was divided into three sections: one end was for the forwards, one end was for the guards, and the middle section was reserved for the centers, who would jump-start the ball after each basket. Any girl caught stepping out of her section was called for traveling, and with six girls on each team, it was a fairly common occurrence.
"People don't believe you now when you say that you couldn't go all over the floor. That tells a lot about the time - women were thought of as being dainty little things that couldn't do anything," Aufranc says.
While the boys' team of the area could vie for the chance of a state title, the end of the line for the girls was at the county level. "It was the boys' team that counted. They got top billing, but we didn't care as long as we were playing," she says.
And they did play. Every Friday night, the girls' game would come first, followed by the boys' game later on the same evening.
According to Shepherd, the gymnasium was so crowded with family and community members that spectators had to stand pressed against the walls or looking down through balcony windows to watch the game.
"My, how we used to play basketball in that old auditorium!" says Kathryn Hutzelman, who played with Aufranc in the early 1930s. "We always had the crowds."
The Friday night games were a great draw for the farming community of West Chester.
"They (the games) were in the winter time when there was no place to go and nothing to do. Everybody wanted to be at the ball game," says Aufranc.
Among the spectators were not only parents and friends of the girls, but also many of their brothers who would play in the following game.
"It was all a family thing," explains Aufranc.
For away games at schools like Fairfield, Mason, and Ross, both the boys' and girls' team traveled together.
"Just the fact that we rode together on the bus (was an experience) - singing and shouting. You had a different vision from others, going from one school to another to play," says Ring. "It was an experience for a little old country girl."
Because of the school's small size, it was often difficult for the girls to fill out a team. When a seventh-eighth grade team didn't have enough players, Aufranc was asked to join, even though she was only in the sixth grade at the time.
"They knew that I was crazy to play basketball and that I played all the time at home," she says. According to Aufranc, basketball was the typical form of entertainment for teenagers in an age without television and shopping malls.
"My lord, we were out in the barn shooting baskets every free minute we had. No matter where you went (to visit friends) you went out in the barn and shot baskets," says Aufranc. "We never knew school without basketball."
So it came as a blow to Aufranc and her teammates when the program was discontinued by statewide rule in 1935, Aufranc's senior year.
"It nearly broke my heart. I was so mad I didn't get to play that I didn't know the reasons behind it," says Aufranc.
Across the country, the girl's sports that were so popular in the 1920s were being phased out because of money shortages during the Great Depression and the influence of organizations claiming that competitive athletics were detrimental to the well-being of young girls. Such groups included the Women's Division of the National Amateur Athletic Association, whose founder first Lady Lou Hoover, persuaded the surgeon general that sports were too strenuous for young women.
"There were all these cockammamie theories about what strenuous activity would do to women," said Lakota West sports information director Robert Ashby. "None of this was based on scientific theory; people seemed to be pulling it out of their ears."
Nevertheless, girls' sports were downplayed in West Chester and then in Lakota when the district formed in 1959.
"You'll find early on that girls were involved in a lot of sports, but then it came to the point where it was not socially acceptable," says Martilu Puthoff, former Lakota gym teacher and girls' intramural coach in the early 1960s.
To even get recognition for girls' sports at the time was a challenge, according to Puthoff.
"I can remember when we (intramural teams) fought just to get the gym one afternoon after school a week," she says.
The first girl's interscholastic team was finally started in Lakota in 1968, and it wasn't until three years later that the team adopted universal rules for season play.
"It was a great many years before they decided that girls weren't dainty china dolls," said Aufranc of the transition. "Look at what girls do today."
When Miami University fielded its first girls' basketball team, Aufranc trekked to the games to see the differences first-hand, and left wanting to play more than ever. However, according to Aufranc, the game has more pressures now as well as opportunities.
"It's practice, practice, practice all the time. In time to come, they're going to realize that kids are pushed too much," Aufranc shakes her head and recalls practicing only one day every week for an hour after school.
"It's much more competitive than it was in those days. Nobody chewed us out if we missed the ball. We wanted to win, but we wanted to play more," says Aufranc.
The results now are higher scoring games and a higher level of playing, says Shepherd. "The game is just altogether different now - it's all precision," he says.
Nevertheless, the former players remember the team as having an impact on their lives.
"As old as I am, I still think back on all the memories," says Ring, who recalls her favorite moment as beating a strong Mason girls' team. "West Chester was a little school, but it was a strong one." Aufranc agrees, saying that playing was the highlight of her high school years.
Her eyes smile with quiet pride as she places the list back down.
"We played together, worked together, and we wanted to win together. We did it all for the love of the game."
Zero. That's how many students bought class rings at special prices Jostens Inc. promised in a district-sponsored bidding process in October 1995.
"Not one person ever bought an economy line bid in all the years since," Jostens representative Gary Casella said in a meeting with staff members of The Lowell last week.
The admission by Castella and fellow representative Steve Grasso this week seems odd to observers who wonder why hundreds of students at Lowell - and perhaps well over a thousand in San Francisco - opted to buy higher-priced rings when Jostens said the lower-priced rings were available to students.
Principal Paul Cheng is among those with questions. "Why would someone not want to buy a low-priced ring?" Cheng asked.
The difference between the prices in the October 1995 bid and actual prices Lowell students paid amounts to tens of thousands of dollars, according to calculations by The Lowell and assistant principal John Mahoney. He added that he might seek compensation from Jostens depending on the extent to which students knew the low prices existed. "If you (the students) were inappropriately charged, then there should be restitution," he said.
Given that not a single student in the three years covered by Josten's contract bought a ring at the promised prices, Mahoney said he questions how actively Casella and Grasso promoted a brochure that reflected prices from the October 1995 bid. "I'd be curious to see how they (the low-priced rings) were merchandised," he said.
The bid, which helped Jostens win the three-year Lowell contract, and other contracts of varying length with other district schools, shows prices that are dramatically lower than the prices students have been paying.
For example, the highest-priced male's 14K gold ring listed in the bid cost $265. However, according to the glossy price list that comes with the current ring packet - the same list Casella and Grasso say they have been using for three years - the lowest advertised price for a male's 14K gold ring is $359.
A special brochure Jostens said it distributed with the packets from 1996 to 1998 offered a lower price - $314 - for the same ring. That price was still $49 more expensive than the highest-priced 14K gold ring in the October 1995 bid. The brochure also offered a line of rings called the Classic Collection, which complied with the bid prices.
Part of the reason Jostens no longer offers the special brochure is that the contract agreed upon in 1995 expired last year, according to Casella and Grasso.
In repeated interactions with members of The Lowell's staff, Casella and Grasso initially denied the authenticity of the low bid and prices. They claimed that the bid was forged, despite an October 1995 demarcation from Grasso's fax machine. They alleged that the only bid they submitted to the school district was a bid with higher prices than they had submitted in February 1995.
After hearing that handwriting analyst Patricia Fisher of Fisher Forensic Document Laboratory in Oakland said that the signatures on the low bid were "probably genuine," Grasso hypothesized that someone in the district's purchasing office might have misplaced a file from the previous year.
"We have not sold rings at those prices in at least 15 years," Casella said.
But this week, Grasso and Casella said they had, in fact, submitted the lower bid. They also claimed that up until last year they offered the Classic Collection prices.
Casella and Grasso said they offered a low-priced line of rings to compete with Balfour Co., which had submitted lower prices during the bidding in 1995. Grasso said Jostens lowered its prices by reinstating, only in the San Francisco Unified School District, a previously discontinued, low-priced collection of rings - the Classic Collection. "We wern't going to let the other companies buy the business," Grasso said.
The Jostens' bid beat the Balfour bid by exactly four dollars in every category.
This strategy is consistent with Jostens' marketing strategies across the country, according to an article in the July 5, 1998, issue of the Minnesota newspaper, Pioneer Press.
In that article, reporter Scott Carlson wrote: "Jostens can undercut the competition if the schools open up their doors to more than one vendor of class rings or graduation products, competitors assert. For example, Jostens' sales reps can nearly give away the cap and gown business in order to win the class ring and announcement accounts."
Casella said he and Grasso wanted to maintain the SFUSD accounts for reasons of "pride." Casella and Grasso produced the special brochure that boasted of "bonus specials" only for students in the SFUSD. It shows three basic types of rings with prices comparable to those in the October 1995 bid.
Senior Joanna Diaz said that the information about the low prices was publicized, but not well. "They had them (the special brochures) in the main office, but not with the information packet."
Diaz said she did not buy a ring from Jostens when she looked last year because the prices were too high. Instead, when her father was on a trip in Peru, he bought a comparable ring for a lower price, she said.
Senior Christopher Lee said when he sought to buy a ring last year, he felt pressure from Jostens' - representatives to buy a ring that cost more than he wanted to spend, and so he did not buy a ring at all. He said he would have bought a ring if he had known about the prices in the special brochure.
Lee said that he and other students did not receive the brochure that advertised those prices. "I've never seen this before," he said when shown a copy of the special SFUSD pamphlet. "No way. Not with these prices."
Counselor and Class of '97 sponsor May Choi said she remembered seeing a similar brochure during the competitive bidding procedure. However, Choi added that it was not fair to students for Jostens' representatives to raise their prices as soon as their contract expired. "Coming from a business standpoint, they're right (to raise prices), but since we've been their customers, they should take that into account," she said.
San Francisco Board of Education member Jill Wynns said that the contract Lowell had with Jostens did not contain an agreement that all of the rings be marketed with the same intensity. However, she said that the school district should look into adding such an agreement. "If there are students who believe they were denied the opportunity to buy a less expensive ring, then the school district should look into the possibility of having a marketing agreement," she said.
Board of Education member Dan Kelly said that the seeming lack of advertising that led to not one student buying a ring at the lower price might not have been malicious. "There is sloppy advertisement, and there is deliberately deceitful advertising," he said. "If it was a mistake, they could improve their advertising."
However, Kelly added that the advertising problem might have been deliberate. "There is always the potential for abuse when you allow one provider to be exclusive," he said. "We have to be very skeptical when we award exclusive rights." Casella and Grasso said that they stopped offering the special prices because no one bought a ring at those rates.
However, according to a poll conducted by The Lowell this month, 38 percent of the current juniors and seniors who did not buy rings cited the high cost of rings as their reason.
Kelly said that seniors are already vulnerable to buying a class ring they might not need or want, but buy a ring out of nostalgia. "It's a frivolous purchase for many people."
Cheng said he wants to look into the price discrepancy. "I would like to see a further review to get the basis of the difference," he said. "We need to ensure that there are the best possible price arrangements."
Another concern is that the contract which allowed Jostens to sell class rings expired last year, and the contract for other memorabilia expired in 1996. The school district has neither renewed the contract nor sponsored another competitive bidding process, although Mahoney said the school should have held another competitive process. "If their contract is up, should it not go out to bid again? It should," Mahoney said.
Gary Mercado was the representative of Balfour at the time of the bidding process, and now works for the Intergold jewelry company in Canada. He said that if there were another competitive bidding process in the SFUSD, he would not bid because of the discrepancy between the bid and the prices students paid and because he perceived a lack of response from school district officials to his complaints about the process. He said he flew back to San Francisco in early 1996 to discuss the problem with people in the school district, but said he "got nowhere." He added, "I was quite upset."
Mercado wrote several pointed letters to Gregg Bender, who was the coordinator of high school operations at the time of the competitive bidding, alleging gross misconduct on the part of the Jostens' representatives. "In my 30 years of working within the educational community, I have never observed a more blatant, arrogant and `in your face' attitude than that perpetrated by Jostens on the students and the parents of the San Francisco Unified School District," he wrote in a Feb. 22, 1996, letter. Mahoney said that the other companies in the ring industry use similar tactics. "The ring business is fraught with innuendo and one-upsmanship," he said.
Mahoney said that the real victims of any pricing discrepancies or misconduct would be students. "If the award was given on the lower prices and the students were charged the higher price without a reasonable explanation, then the best interests of the students are not served."
As class officers prepare to select a vendor of big-ticket graduation items at a competitive bidding process on Monday, a dissapointed city supervisor is calling for a hearing to investigate why the San Francisco Unified School District allowed Jostens Inc. to sell the graduation items without a contract.
During Monday's bidding process, representatives from both Jostens and Herff-Jones Inc. will present prices for the items they hope to sell to students, according to assistant principal John Mahoney. He added that the class officers of each class will choose a vendor independently of the other three classes' choices.
The class officers are anticipating the meeting will be a success. "We are looking for the package that best suits the student body," junior class president Tony Duong said.
Mahoney set up the bidding process after learning not one student bought a graduation ring at the special prices Jostens' representative Gary Casella presented to students at the districtwide competitive bidding process in 1995. Another reason for Monday's competitives is that Jostens operated at Lowell last year without a contract.
San Francisco supervisor Leland Yee will introduce a resolution to the Board of Supervisors to determine why the district did not check up on Jostens' contract when it expired. He said he feels that the competitives are an important procedure in the school district and was disappointed that they did not continue when the contract expired. "Our children are at the mercy of whatever unscrupulous ring vendor comes into the schools," Yee said.
Jostens is offering rebates especially for Lowell students who bought rings between 1995 and 1998 and who did not know the low-priced rings existed, and to students who did not buy rings because they cost too much. To get rebates, students should call Jostens at 1-800-854-7464, according to Mark Cassutt, Jostens' manager of corporate communications. As of last week, only one student had contacted Jostens to inquire about the rebate, according to Cassutt.
Jostens' spokesman Kevin Weylan said the company had considered sending a flyer to Lowell students who bought rings during the eligible years. However, he said, the management decided against it because the company thought not enough people would take advantage of the rebate to make the mailer worth it. The only way the rebate was publicized was on a series of stories on KRON-TV (Channel 4) and BAY-TV (Channel 35) and on The Lowell on the Web (www.thelowell.org).
Methods of weight loss
Waking up, sophmore Mike Fumagalli would peel off the garbage bags and layers of clothing he had worn to bed the night before hoping to "sweat away" some extra weight.
Throughout the day, he would ask teachers to use their trashcans and would spit constantly. Sometimes, he would even cut his hair or sit in a sauna, all to lose a couple more pounds.
Many people may wonder why someone would go to such extreme measures just to lose a few pounds.
For Fumagalli, the answer was simply: "Everyone likes to win. That's why you cut weight."
"Cutting weight" is a term that refers to a wrestler's attempt to lose a certain amount of weight in order to compete in a particular weight category in wrestling competitions. Some wrestlers choose to lose weight so they can find a spot on the team, said Keith Healy, varsity wrestling coach of the nationally ranked team at Providence High School.
Since only a certain number of slots are open per weight class, a wrestler may be beat out of a spot at one weight but perhaps can drop down to a lower weight where more openings are available.
Junior Sean Randich said that cutting weight also could be important because as one moves down in weight classes it is easier to win.
A common weight-loss method among the athletes is to wrap their body in garbage bags during exercise to maximize sweat loss, said Randich.
He added that while the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) prohibits this method, it is still commonly practiced.
JT wrestling coach "Mac" McLaughlin said that although he could not control what athletes did at home, at practice, garbage bags are not allowed. He added that most of his wrestlers, in fact, wear only shorts and a T-shirt to practice.
Taking laxatives is another method of rapid weight loss. Senior Tim Holman said he had "done the whole Ex-Lax thing," and that while he thinks that a "normal person" should not use such weight loss methods, it is okay for wrestlers.
"In wrestling, you're not necessarily going for permanent weight loss. Weight loss isn't the goal but a means of attaining the goal," said Holman.
Rachel Haas, a registered dietitian at Provena St. Joseph Medical Center, says she discourages wrestlers from cutting weight because it is very "detrimental" to the body.
Health complications such as lowered blood sugar, increased use of muscle tissue, reduced ability for muscles to use oxygen and reduced ability for the body to regulate temperature could all result from rapid weight loss, said Haas. In fact, between November 7 and December 9, 1997, three collegiate wrestlers died after trying to rapidly lose weight. The wrestlers were using weight loss methods now prohibited by the NCAA, including the use of vapor-impermeable suits.
A report by Dr. Daniel Remick of the Centers for Disease Control said the three wrestlers, having practiced weight-loss techniques such as vigorous exercise in hot environments, lost an average of 30 pounds from the pre-season until the times of their deaths.
"Under such conditions, particularly when dehydration is involved, there are no established limits for safe weight loss," said Remick.
"The sudden deterioration and resulting deaths of previously healthy, young, well-trained athletes underscores the need to eliminate weight-control practices which emphasize extreme or rapid weight loss," he added.
As a result of this incident, the state of Wisconsin has issued a minimum weight program that requires wrestlers to take a skin fold test at the beginning of the season to determine the amount of weight they are allowed to lose.
McLaughlin said he feels such a program in Illinois is unnecessary and that wrestling is already legislated more than any other sport in America.
He added that he does not think rapid weight loss is a problem among most athletes.
"Dieting is not a fad for wrestling, but a fad for Americans," McLaughlin said.
Randich, on the other hand, said that such a program might be beneficial for the state of Illinois to adopt because wrestlers attempting to lose weight do not always think of the consequences.
But Homan countered, "It's not going to happen unless you stick an IHSA official in every wrestling room throughout the state."
Healy said he thinks this (weight monitoring) is the direction the state is going due to the fact that it is inexpensive and they need somethjing to keep track of the weight loss.
Currently, the Olympic Committee Sports Medicine Division and the International Center for Sports Nutrition say that "weight loss should generally not exceed two pounds per week." Many times, though, the weight loss methods are not practiced in a gym or a wrestling room, but in the athlete's own home.
Because of this, Haas stressed that parents need to be educated about the risks of cutting weight and must monitor their wrestlers to ensure their safety.
"I don't think parents realize what (cutting weight) is doing to their children's bodies," said Haas.
McLaughlin said that he tells parents, "If your kid looks like he's getting tired, souped out, stop."
Healy also consults parents about their child's weight loss and said that before any wrestler on his team makes the decision to cut a large amount of weight, he first consults the parents.
"Because of cutting weight, my mom doesn't like the whole sport," said Fumagalli.
He said that while his mom was supportive in helping him cut weight by doing such things as making salads, she drew the line when he began to get sick.
Fumagalli, who said he frequently cut weight in junior high, said he lost 12 pounds before this season but stopped when he started to get light-headed and dizzy.
"There is a fine line between determination of sport and health," said Fumagalli. "Strength is more important than losing two pounds."
Every summer, come August, you see the football players one the field "skipping," tackling each other and throwing their bodies into tackle dummies.
So, just what are they doing out there?
I decided to join the varsity football team for practice one day during double sessions the week before school started.
I didn't exactly don the pads and get in the huddles, but I did get to see firsthand how the team trains for its season.
I think most people would be surprised at how physical their pratices are and how the athletes go all out against their own teammates. I know I was.
I arrive at the school at 8 a.m. (well, actually 8:03 which by football training standrads means I would have to run laps!). This doesn't sound like too bad of a starting time, but if you have to be at the school between 7:30 and 7:45 just to get on your pads, that can make for a lot of early summer mornings.
"This is pretty hard," senior Sean Randich, one of the team's tight ends, said of the summer start time. "You hear practice starts at 8 a.m. but you think, - Oh man! I have to wake up at 7 to be there by 7:30."
The team starts out stretching just like any sport and then does speed drills such as grapevines and sprints.
You can tell it is early in the morning because there is silence, save for an occasional animal noise and the rattling of helmets.
They finish their sprinting and pull it in. Then each player gets down on one knee, in typical football fashion, for announcements.
Today, varsity coach Bill Wienke is talking about T-shirt money that is still due.
"I'm a good paying customer," Wienke says, warning the procrastinators to turn in money soon. "I don't feel sorry for you...you had plenty of time (to pay)."
One of the assistant coaches asks about practice time for Saturday and Wienke responds, "It'll come to me. I woke up the other day at 4 a.m. worrying about money for T-shirts and girdle belts."
"It'll come to me (the practice answer) next time I wake up at 4 a.m."
Wienke then gives a rundown about special teams practice, which is next on the agenda. Here, the athletes will practice kickoff, kickoff return or some other specialized part of the game.
I's not even 8:30 and players are outside clanking helmets against each other and pulling their opponents to the ground.
To the eye of an observer, there is very little difference between the intensity right now and that shown during a game.
"It's pain," Randich says of the workouts. "You risk injury every time you go out there...but it's worth it."
In fact, senior quarterback Jim Patnoudes, who has had a history of shoulder problems according to Wienke, is sitting out this one workout to make sure he doesn't get injured.
After 30 minutes of this, the athletes run off the field hot and sweaty to get a drink of water before splitting up to work with their position coaches.
One group walks through plays; another has two people running after the ball and many times diving head-first to get it before their opponent.
The linebackers were doing a drill where they would move forward, pick up the teammate in front of them and run with them.
The last group was doing a drill where players would roll on the ground, get up and hit the tackle dummy over and over until they reached the end of the line.
Yeah, there was the occasional player that would linger on the ground for just a bit too long, but for the most part, these guys were hustling.
Again, the team pulled it in - and now it is time for scrimmage. "Totally live," Wienke says, meaning that only the quarterback can't be tackled.
Tackling your own teammate?
"Yeah, it is a bit weird," says Randich. "You don't want to thit the guy really hard, but if you don't full go, you'll be the one that will end up getting hurt."
Patnoudes said this part of practice is where many athlete do get hurt, like Randich who hit his hand on a helmet and damaged some tissue, and junior Joe Waldvogal, who hit his head and was sidelined by the coaches just to be on the safe side.
But, according to Wienke, it's all part of the game.
"You can lift weights and run until the cows come home, but that just prepares you for a game. Now the actual hits to the body, that's a whole different thing," Wienke says.
Part of the game that might be just a bit misunderstood.
"I'm not really sure a lot of people understand exactly what type of commitment is needed to play this game," says Wienke.
As I walk off the practice field I can hear Wienke's voice in the background, "Get into that attack mode," he yells. "Attack! Attack!"