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Here are the winning articles of the 2005 Hemingway Writing Awards for high school students


Commentary Winner

A Legal Right To Be Wrong
Maria Abascal, senior, Lakota East High School in Liberty Township, Ohio.

The Civil War officially ended 139 years ago.

In high school hallways, the controversy is still very much alive.

Recently, Lakota East principal Ruth Barber banned students from displaying Confederate flags on their clothing or possessions at school. In an email to faculty, Barber defended her actions on the basis that the flag "belittled" others.

Southern purists will argue the Confederate flag stands for nothing but the heritage of a long-gone culture, not slavery or racism. But the flag can hardly be compared to showing support for a region or heritage because the flag was actually a direct effect of the Civil War. It is the symbol of a country that no longer exists and whose sole purpose at the time of its being was to defy this one.

Wearing the Confederate flag goes far beyond a belittled ego or a mere discomfort. And this does not depend on what it supposedly represents.

The fact remains that whether it was about states' rights or barbecued ribs, the flag has become a symbol for slavery.

Perception is reality.

In reality, people perceive the flag as racist.

Likewise, it can be argued that the swastika stands for economic prosperity and national pride, ideas just as ardently argued by Hitler as anti-Semitism. World War II, after all, was officially fought over land, not Jews. The United States never entered the war with a keen and poignant interest to end the suffering of millions of Jews, gypsies, communists, homosexuals, and the plethora of other racial, ethnic, and political minorities that the Nazis discriminated against.

It might be interesting to see someone defend their wearing of a Nazi swastika, despite their legal right to do so. One of this country's greatest attributes lies in its defense of those who will offend it.

That is precisely why it would be tragic to see the abridgement of students' first amendment rights to forms of free speech. Especially those that do not interfere with their pedagogy. In doing so, those who wear the Confederate flag may rightfully claim that they have been wronged, and the student body may forget whom the flag insulted previously.

Banning the flag will bring friction to the problem of racism, which, however much I may like to claim is gone, is ever present in American society. Moreover, banning the flag will draw attention to its use, probably the initial goal of anyone who wears it.

I am assuming this is their motive because I hesitate to say that anyone in our school would purposely wear anything to offend someone else, cough, cough.

No, not even just to offend.

Rules in the United States have never been made to defend personal self-esteems, as this usually ends up only insulting others. Still, on an individual basis, wearing the Confederate flag is blatantly biting that hand that feeds.

And so as the principal in charge of a public school, Barber would be expected to have the undeniable authority, at least morally, to prohibit whatever she deems inappropriate.

But legally, according to the 1969 Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines, a principal may not restrict students' free expression unless it causes a "substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities." It follows that unless Barber witnesses rioting students and downed teachers, she should have no reason to prohibit the Confederate flag.

Moreover, wearing the flag doesn't cause so much as an educational detriment to other students, a censorship standard later set by Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier. In several of my classes some students are staunch displayers--I'm not sure if supporters--but displayers, of the Confederate flag. This has never become an obstacle between learning Newton's laws and me. In fact, its presence has not even arrested my attention for a second as I try to define literary movements.

But I will never be a black girl trying to focus on kinematics equation as my lab partner doodles on a Confederate flag-laden planner. I will never understand what it is to feel that my ancestors were oppressed under the guise of freedom. I am not the black boy in our school who had a Confederate flag rubbed on him by a boy-- a classmate-- as a sick joke.

Those who wear the Confederate flag have every right to do so, but they are undeniably wrong.

IF THE FLIP FLOP FITS

The day I realized I was a flip flop was when my sister asked me to explain the war.

For a year, I had been completely convinced of how I felt about the war. It was the obvious and necessary outcome of the terrorist attacks, and when my younger sister wanted to know how the war happened, I figured it wouldn't be too hard to explain.

"Well, it started with the September 11 attacks. You remember those Elena?" I began. "The very bad people who did that followed a man called Osama bin Laden, and he was in a country called Afghanistan, and then...."

Then I stopped. My sister is eight, and like any third grader, abstract thinking is well beyond her grasp. So when I tried to link the confict in Afghanistan to the war in Iraq in concrete terms, I realized I couldn't.

If I could not justify the war to a little girl who still believed in unicorns, I could not justify it to myself.

But I'm not alone. The entire American public is flip flopping. In March 2003, support for the war was up to 76 percent, according to USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup polls. By October, it had dropped to 52 percent.

That was half of the United States that could not explain the war to my sister, and it seems that with every broadcast beheading or capture of an enemy, public opinion fluctuates. The American people make Senator John Kerry look just plain stubborn.

The difference is Kerry is being branded for doing the same thing any reasonable person would do with new information. After all, Kerry is a Senator with 20 years of voting records to attack and plenty of debates to be taken out of context. But his response to the attacks has been exactly the wrong one.

He should have pointed out that before the Republican campaign defined flip flopping as the single worst character flaw, after being gay, some people called it humility. A few even called it a virtue. Instead, Kerry and Edwards have taken to attacking the consistency of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's policies and voting records.

This is a weak strategy, especially because although Bush and Cheney have changed their minds about certain issues, like the Department of Homeland Security, flip flopping on the war is, by comparison, more serious. Besides, Bush and Cheney are making it more of a point to be resolute, even if they are completely wrong.

Instead, Kerry should focus on the fact that when he flip flopped it was because he was misled. After all, in 2002, when John Kerry voted for a resolution to pave the way for war, the legislation stated that Saddam Hussein was beyond a shadow of a doubt in possession of weapons of mass destruction and directly connected to the World Trade Center attacks. It wasn't even a declaration of war. It was a declaration to go to the U.N. and, after building allies, attack if necessary.

Maybe a little kid asked Kerry about the war. Or maybe he was just paying attention when chief weapons inspector David Kay stated before Congress that U.S. intelligence had been wrong, when the connection between Hussein and September 11 dissolved, and no weapons were found.

Now, both Kerry and his opponent have cornered themselves. If either is reelected, they have the to live up to their self-labeled consistency. According to both campaigns, it is better to be determined about a mistake than acknowledge it and try to fix it.

The most dangerous thing about this election is not the electing the man with the wrong answers. It's that the stigma both campaigns have placed on changing opinion is so serious, neither will be able to recognize their mistakes.

Not even my sister would be able to get to them. And a serious weakness in government is when it cannot respond to simple logic.

Both campaigns should just stop making juvenile attacks by comparing each other to shoes and questioning someone's record some thirty years ago. Bush and Kerry have to stop diverting the public's attention from their mostly cloudy plans for America.

And I don't think even my sister would be impressed if we elect a president to solve present problems because he was stubborn or shot a gun thirty years ago.


Feature Writing Winner

Hawa's Journey
Ross Boomer, senior, Shawnee Mission East High School.

Dipping her hands into the water, Hawa Whaten could hear gunshots roar across the Sierra Leone landscape.

The rebels had entered her village of Mamoa, quickly approaching the pond where she ws fishing with some friends of her mother.

She tried to run, but to no avail. Hawa was captured, alone, without her family at the age of twelve.

The rebels took her and ten other people of another village to spend the night. All she could think of was her fare.

But she didn't cry.

Those who cried would be killed.

After a sleepness night in a crowded hut, the captured were lined up outside. The rebels gathered long sticks and machetes. One by one ther prisoners placed their wrists beneath a wooden rod, conveniently allowing the blade's swift motion to sever their hands.

Hawa could only watch the line get shorter and shorter; her fate, closer and closer.

"I was thinking [about running away]," Hawa said, "They are going to take my hands off. How am I supoosed todo my hair or dress myself? But you can't run away."

Finally, the moment came when only a girl ws between Hawa and the blade. She had a weakness for blood and died on the spot. It was Hawa's turn to step up.

Hawa felt nothing after the blood-splattered knife had done its job. It wasn't until she saw the remains of her hands in a pool of red that she felt any pain. All she could do was cry. And walk.

Hawa was left in the African bush for nine days, alone, wandering to find her village and family. Miraculously she survived. Placing chewed cocoa leaves on the stubs for her hand, a remedy her mother had taught her, she stopped the bleeding and roamed the foreboding landscape.

Hawa also managed to find food. Using the stubs of her arms as well as her jaw she was able ato eat wild bananas and drink pond water.

"I was scared but not that much," Hawa said. "There were snakes and animals. But they couldn't do anything [compared to the rebels]. I really just wanted to die. I was in the bush...I couldn't find home. But something in my brain said 'keep going.' So I kept going."

On the ninth day Hawa's uncle found her asleep near the village. Her family had gone into hiding, their hope for finding Hawa having faded, while the uncle had stayed looking for food. Of Hawa's entire family, including her mother and father and five siblings as well as aunts and uncles and cousins, she was the only on caught by the rebels.

Following her discovery, Hawa was taken to UN soldiers stationed in nearby Masiaka who sent her to a hospital in Freetown. There she had her first surgery, a stitching up of what was left of hands: a left stump and right thumb with a pointer finger stub.

Four months passed in the small, crowded hospital before Hawa was reunited with her family.

"I was dead to them." Hawa said, "And her I am."

The Ceramics room is alive with activity as students pound and sculpt and smooth their various clay creation. Freshman Hawa Whalen pries the lid off a yellow plastic clay container with both hands and reaches in a to grab a piece of hard, gray clay. She then proceeds to a nearby table where she pushes and pulls the sticky substances with her right thumb and finger until it softens enough to go to the press.

Already on her workbench lays a clay etching of a leaf and flower, her project from the past week.

When it's finally her turn, Hawa quickly places the piece of clay beneath the press and places her hands on the large crank, her right hand grasping the wheel, the left pushing it for support. The press flattens the clay.

"I don't know what I'm making yet," Hawa says, "I think a bowl,"

The challenge of something like ceramics is nothing new for Hawa. After four years and seven surgeries, Hawa has transformed herself from a helpless African girl robbed of her hands to an active American high school student overcoming her handicap.

Whether she's seen training for the track season, studying hard at home, or simply eating her lunch in the cafeteria, Hawa strives to appear as normal as everyone else.

After spending several months in the Freetown hospital, Hawa moved with her mother Isatu into an amputee camp across town. Hawa taught herself how to be self-suffcient, needing her mother only to do her hair and tie her dresses.

Besides her everyday hope for food in the famished area, Hawa desired for further treatment of her wrist. Her hope become a reality in March 2001.

That month Raymore resident Lonny Houk met Hawa. Houk was leading a medical team from the Christain-based aide organization. Feed the Lambs, and was planning to take a few children back to the United States for better treatment.

Hawa was the only child chosen from the camp of 125,000. Her mother said she was picked because of her bright smile.

On March 14, 2001 Hawa left the amputee camp, on her way to board a plane for America, leaving her family and country. Two other boys from another town accompanied her. One of them had only skin tissue protecting part of his brain. A rebel's machete had sliced his skull.

As Hawa was leaving the camp, a parade of other people followed her, chanting "Hawa! Hawa! Go to school! Don't come back!"

Refugees swarmed around around the car she entered, pounding on the windows and continuing their chants. As the car started to roll off, Hawa's mother came running towards it, wanting to see her daughter one last time. The window opened and the two stared, tears in their eyes.

"She said for me to come back...but[she said] 'you have to get a hand...it's going to help you,"

The car drove off.

Hawa would never see her mother again. Six months later she died of a snakebite.

On March 15, 2001 Hawa arrived in Kansas City. March 15 is now her birthday. There were no birth Certificates in Sierra Leone.

Take to Olathe Medical Center, Hawa received her second and third surgeries, stump revisions, where excess scar tissue was removed from her wrists.

Beth Whalen was working in media relations at the hospital when she first noticed Hawa.

"She was so quiet and she ws so sweet." Mrs. Whalen said. "While the [other two boys] were having surgery I took her back to my office. She was so tired from her journey, and she just curled up on my floor and slept."

Later that month Hawa came to live with the Whalen family in their Leawood home with a llittle brother, a dog and a cat. In March 2003 her adoption was finalized. Four years earlier she lived in a hut made out of clay, straw, and a tin roof with her African family. There was no running water. No electricity. No plumbing.

Hawa was immediately thrust into a new culture and society completely different to those of Sierra Leone. Simple everyday things like the telephone and American food were foreign to her.

"You put waffles in from of her and she's got to be going 'what's this?"' Mrs. Whalen said."To think that shw searched for water everday and now goes up to drive through McDonalds and say 'hey give me a coke'... its two different worlds."

And in these worlds are two different languages. When Hawa entered Mission Valley as a seventh grader the following August, she knew only her native language, Krio.

She needed tutoring for only a year. Despite her intial lack of English, by eighth grade she could read, and speak the language.

"I read magazines [to learn English]," Hawa said. She had a particular fancy for Cosmo girl, she also like to watch The Three stooges and I Love Lucy. Now she spends her free time reading the stacks of novels piling up in the corners of her room. Her current favorite is The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Writing, though, was a more difficult task to learn.

"When you don't know the language and don't have hands it's doubly hard," Mrs. Whalen said.

When Hawa started the seventh grade, her hands were weakened from her fourth surgery. Web spacing that was supposed to give her a stronger grip between her right thumb and pointer finger stub had adverse effects and her grasp was actually weakened. She still managed to hold a pencil for writing.

Hawa also started using a myloectric left hand to aide her weakened right hand with a simple flick of the wrist this robotic hand opens and shuts, giving her forceful grip.

It's not practical with food, though Crumbs of peanut butter cookie flew to all corner of the room as she demonstrated its strength.

Her fifth surgery in December 2002 added a vice-exterior fixator to her right pointer finger stub. After cranking a lever five times a day for a year and a half, Hawa's finger was longer thus helping her grip.

In September Hawa had two sugeries: the first removing the fixator, the second opening web spacing. Now her right hand is strong enough that the myloectric hand is no longer needed.

Whether she is playing basketball, driving with her dad, simply carrying her try to lunch, Hawa doesn't let her handicap get in her way.

"There is little that she can't do." Mrs. Whalen said, "She[just]can't braid her hair or tie her shoes."

In the fall Hawa joined the cross country team and completed a whole season, something many students initally interesed in the sport fall in doing, Running is one way Hawa has learned to cope with the emotions that come with being in a new country with a new handicap.

"Sometimes I just think of not having my hands and what things I could do with them...I get mad. I get sad." Hawa said. '[In] cross-country you don't have to worry about your hands...running gets the angry out."

The only practices Hawas missed were surgery related. She made those up with her own 5:30 am runs.

Hawa continues to improve her English skills and do well in school.

"If you don't work hard in school how are you to get a job?" Hawa said,"I want to go to college. I want to be a nurse...to help others... to go back to Sierra Leone."

In October Hawa went to Homecoming with some friends. After a meal at IHOP, it was off to the dance. She was dressed ina traditional West African dress, one of two that were her only original possessions brought from Sierra Leone.

Shaking her hip, moving her legs, and swaying her arms, Hawa danced up until the last song. But she didn't go home afterwards.

She bowled.

It's generation AIM and we're all part of it.

Ross Boomer

Im gay remained typed on the window."should I send this?" John thought. "One enter and she'll know."

He had already been starting at the same message for a minute.

"How will she respond? Am I ready for this?"

John pressed enter, and immediately his message appeared on his friend's computer. He was out... from the comforts of an instant message.

Senior John Adams is just one of 13 million teenagers who has embraced instant message for a minute.

"How will she respond? Am I ready for this?"

John pressed enter, and immediately his message appeared on his friend's computer.

He was out... from the comfort of an instant message.

Senior is just one of 13 million teenagers who has embraced means of communication. Creating a more private environment, IM services like AIM are revolutionizing the way people socialize, deal with relationships, and use the English language.

A new network

In 2001 the Pew Internet and American Life Project - a nonprofit research center studying the country's online activities - found that 74 percent of American teenagers used instant messaging. According to head researcher Amand Lenhart, that number is only growing as researchers collect more data.

"We call it a 'network effect," Lenhart said, "As people get to know more people they create these social networks through instant messaging... in the past IM and email were equal partners. Now IM is becoming more popular because it's more like a conversation, and you know who's on."

Privacy and convenience are other factors that lead teens to instant messaging.

"Without a face and a voice to go with the screen name it is much less intimidating to approach that person," senior William O'Rourke said.

O'Rourke started using instant messaging at the end of elementary school.

"It came in handy late at night," he said. "I could talk to girls without my parents overhearing. With the phone they could always hear what I'm saying, but AIM I could talk more freely."

According to the 2001 Pew study, though, the phone is still the most preferred way of communicating with close friends.

"The phone becomes preferable if inflection and depth are important to a given conversation," senior Brady Myers said. "Instant messaging is more efficient in terms of the number of people you can communicate with at once, and also in terms of its ability to transmit lengthy written text faster than if it was read or spoken.

Changing relationships

In Adams' case, he called his friends after he intially came out to them online.

"I felt that it wasn't like I was joking," he said. "It was easier to show emotion, so they knew what I was really talking about."

Last October freshman Chris Nicely asked out freshman Michelle Parsons online.

"I was really nervous," he said. "I didn't know how to react to her response [in person]."

Parsons found in impersonal.

"I thought it was rude," she said. "I ended up breaking up with him online because he asked me out online,"

Just as teenage interest and use of instant messages rose in the past years, so did teachers'. World geography teacher John Nickles decided to get his own screen name after noticing more of his students using IM.

"Kids talked me into doing it." Nickels said. "I talked me into doing it." Nickels said. "I talk to kids on all different levels, from homework to any subject that comes up."

Nickels has also gotten to know students who otherwise don't speak much in class.

"They are kind of intimidated in class," he said. "Online is wide open and bullet proof...but I can't type. I can't handle more than three people...(just tonight) I'm talking to 10 - it's killing me."

Social Status..online

The larger influence of instant messaging on teenagers has also let to an increase of research. American University linguistics professor. Naomi Baron recently finished her study on away messages among college students.

"Less often is the message that says I'm not here," she said. "There are these functions that this seemingly innocent message actually ends up serving. People customize it to whatever purpose they find useful."

According to professor Baron, a common use of the away message is to position oneself socially among the people on his or her buddy list.

"It's a way for people to know that you have a great social life: you're out with so and so tonight," she said, "And sometimes that's made up; in reality you're sitting at your home felling sorry for yourself."

The study also found that students put substantially more time into their away messages than their actual conversations, making sure everything is grammatically correct.

"A lot of people put a lot of effert into their away messages, putting long poems up [for example]," Baron said. "And if you are gong to do that, to show off that you're actually read Emily Dickinson, you proofread it."

Grammar check

There are also more studies being created on the psychological effects of instant messaging.

"It's showing signs we're having some problems of being able to communicate face to face," psychology teacher John Comstock said. "Some people are becoming more comfortable hiding behind a screen."

Another effect noticed is the increased use of instance messager languange I school.

"I see what I consider 'IM speak' showing up on essays occasionally." English teacher Susie Schweiker said. "To me 'w/' means a McDonald's order board..it's writing that is appropriate to a certain format but not as a means of expression on a school assignment."

Schweiker also believes that instant messaging will have a larger impact on language use among younger generations.

"If the majority of what you're writing is not elevated language, then how wdoes you own vocabulary get better?" she said. "Doesn't it always stay at a certain level? You're not noticing new vocabulary words because who of your friends [online] is using them?...an inherent danger exists in the limiting of language."

*Names changed to protect privacy


News Writing Winner

Blue Valley Northwest Students Under Fire
Sara Full, junior, Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, Kan.

When two armed, uniformed police officers pulled Chad Banka, senior, out of class at Millcreek Center Aug. 25, his first thought was that something was wrong with his family. Instead, it was the beginning of a long three weeks during which he and Travis Morrison, senior, were suspended, expelled and then reinstated-all because of the little known or understood district weapons policy.

Banka, who attends classes in welding at Millcreek in the afternoon, was driving a friend's 1992 Honda Prelude when Travis Morrison, senior, asked for a ride.

"I got in the car," said Morrison, "and saw a bottle of extra airsoft pellets in the backseat. I used to be really into paintball and stuff my freshmen year, so I was interested in them. I asked Chad if he had any of the guns that went with the pellets, and he said he believed they were in the trunk."

Morrison said that at that point, he and Banka opened the trunk of the car, where they found two airsoft guns; an automatic rifle, which resembled an Uzi, and a pistol. Morrison picked out the pistol and they drove a few blocks before returning the gun to the trunk and going to class. However, as they attending class, Olathe police officers were searching them.

"Apparently someone saw the gun through the window of the car when we were driving and called police. I was surprised because I wasn't waving or flaunting it around, and it has this bright orange tip," said Morrison.

Banka said the car he was driving is very recognizable because it has special wheels and a unique paint job, so it was easy for the police to track down the car. The search was narrowed down because Banka had his Blue Valley Northwest parking pass, which he had picked up that morning, in the car.

"When the policy officers took me out of class, they asked me if I had any weapons," said Banka, "I knew what they were talking about immediately when they said that. I told them what had happened, then we went out to the car and took a picture of the toys, then we locked them back in the trunk. Then they went and talked to Travis while I went back upstairs and took a test."

According to Morrison, Rick Tremain, principal of Millcreek, said he would be suspended for two days for this offense. Morrison's parents were then contacted and told of the suspension.

"My parents were just made I made a dumb decision. The school wanted to make sure we understood the seriousness of it, but it was pretty much a 'don't let this happen again' kind of attitude," said Morrison.

Banks said Tremain was waiting by the car he was driving after school. He told Banka he would be suspended for two days, and that he would call him over the weekend with more information.

Banka said he returned to BVNW Aug. 26 and attended his classes like any other day. That night, Amy Murphy, BVNW principal, called him and Morrison and told them not to come back to school on Friday. Over the weekend, they learned that even though the violation had happened at Millcreek, part of the Olathe School District and despite the fact they had signed a contract to abide by Olathe School District rules, they were still considered Blue Valley students and were thus subject to the Blue Valley weapons policy. Under Blue Valley regulations, having an airsoft gun at school is an immediate one-year expulsion. Tom Trigg, superintendent of Blue Valley Schools, said the thinks the reason Banks and Morrison were allowed to return to BVNW on Thursday was a breakdown in communication between the Olathe and Blue Valley school districts, but that once Blue Valley knew all the facts, the appropriate action was taken. Trigg said that it if had happened on Blue Valley grounds, however, the weapons probably would have been confiscated.

"The policy says any student with a weapon on school property or at school events shall be expelled for one school year. 'Shall' means there's no leeway. It has to happen," said Murphy.

Murphy said the definition of a weapon is anything that can cause destruction, or any toy or facsimile of an item that can cause destruction.

"When they first told me I could be expelled, I was shocked. I've been going here since kindergarten, and I'd never even had a detention before this. Then all of a sudden, I was going to e expelled my senior year," said Banka.

Before Banka and Morrison would be expelled, they had to serve a short-term, ten-day suspension beginning Aug. 23, which would allow time to gather information. They then had separate hearings at District Office on Sept. 10.

"When they told us we would have a hearing, I thought we could explain the situation, and for sue the school board people would understand these were not the circumstances the rule was meant for. Instead, they said we did have facsimile weapons on school grounds, and that we were expelled," said Morrison.

It was at this point the severity of the problem sunk in, Morrison said.

"I was scared. The situation just kept getting worse and worse," said Morrison, "I was thinking, 'Is this really happening? Can I really be expelled and not be able to graduate because of this?"'

The last recourse in weapons situations, said Murphy, is to be appeal to Trigg, which Banka and Morrison immediately did.

"We appealed to the superintendent and he let us back in. He's a real nice guy - he got what the rule was meant for. He knew we were really remorseful about the situation," said Corrosion.

Trigg said the hearing is solely to determine whether a weapon is on school property, while the appeal takes into consideration the circumstances, intent and disciplinary record of the student. Trigg said when an appeal gets to him he reviews the document and testimony from the hearing, and conducts his own informal investigation.

Trigg then sent a formal letter allowing them to return to school, said Morrison. In the letter to Morrison, Trigg wrote that because of the circumstances of the case, Morrison's previous record of not getting into trouble the fact the he had been keeping up with his school work, he would allow Morrison to return to school. Banka and Morrison returned to classes BVNW on Sept. 16.

Trigg would not comment on he specifics of the case due to the district's policy of protecting the privacy of students. Banka said that he will be allowed to make up tests and homework, and this will not be on his record for applying to colleges.

Both Banka and Morrison said they had no idea what the weapons policy was until they were directly involved in it.

"Had we known the rules, this never would have happened. I mean, I knew that if you brought a gun into school and started waving it around, you would be expelled, but I didn't know how strict it is. If I had known, I wouldn't have even gotten close to that car," said Morrison.

Banka said that everyone he talked to was extremely surprised to find out the severity of the policy.

"No on I talked to knew about it. Everybody wondered why it went to the level that it did," said Banka.

Trigg said the policy needs to be strict, and the law is written, there is not a lot of latitude.

"There is an inherent danger in weapons, and when you have a weapon at school, the danger to students is so much greater. That's why the policy needs to be strict," Trigg said.

Trigg said look-alike, or facsimile guns, though not addressed in the state policy, are a major concern in the school district.

Morrison said he understands the seriousness and purpose of the rules but thinks the policy needs work.

"I understand whoever called us in-it was probably the right thing to do. I understand that if you're a parent and you saw these two kids driving around with a gun, why you would want to call the police," said Morrison, "but the district shouldn't have a set-in-stone rule. That rule was meant for a different situation."

Trigg said fireworks and pocketknives are both violations of the policy.

"If a little kid has a Super Soaker in his mom's van when he's dropped off at school, and some high school kid brings a real, loaded gun to school, it would be the same result," said Banka.

Trigg said that if a situation were appealed to him where a student brought a squirt gun to school, it would not necessarily be an expulsion.

"If it's a realistic looking gun that just happens to squirt water, though, that's a different story," said Trigg.

Philip Glasser, attorney, said there are problems with the definition of a weapon in the district policy.

"Under the definitions of the policy, some things most people would not consider to be a weapon, are a weapon. Under the policy, a starter gun is a weapon. A peashooter is a weapon. Even a spitball is a weapon," said Glasser.

Glasser said another problem with policy is that it appears to be zero tolerance, but in reality all punishments are completely discretionary to the superintendent.

"The problem is that from district to district, and case to case, the policy is not going to be uniformly enforced. The same set of circumstances could lead to very different results," said Glasser.

Glasser said unless federal and state laws change, the superintendent will retain the ability to modify all punishments.

Trigg said changes in the policy are not currently on the agenda.

"In general, though, I do believe the policy is workable and makes sense," said Trigg.

Banka said the district told him the weapons policy is only going to get stricter.

Trigg said students need to be very careful and read the policy for what it is: a one-year expulsion.

"Every situation is looked upon individually. Nobody should try and speculate how one case would be decided on the basis of another case, " said Trigg.

Banka said he is now trying to get caught up on his school work and not fall any farther behind.

"Being suspended for those three weeks was awful. I couldn't go on school grounds, so my Mom had to pick up my school work for me. I couldn't go to football games or anything fun like that," said Banka.

Morrison said he wants to do well the rest of the year and stay out of trouble.

"Hopefully I've learned to think more before I do something stupid again," said Morrison.

Morrison said people need to realize that this rule affect everyone.

"I'm not a troublemaker, I don't cause problem, but all this still happened. People need to stay away from anything that could even be conceived as a weapon," said Morrison.

Morrison said he wants everyone to understand the weapons policy so they do not end up in a situation like he was in.

"I've been trying to explain this to people. They haven't heard of this rule before and they don't realize how it could affect them," said Morrison, "I know there is a ton of kids who play paintball. Let's say you've got a paintball gun locked in your trunk, but then you get into a fight with someone who knows you play. All that person has to do is tell the school you have weapons in your car and they'll find the paintball gun. Just like that, you're expelled."


Students take a lighter approach
Sara Full, junior, Blue Valley Northwest High School, Overland Park, Kan.

The average teenager's diet consists of burgers, fries and Cokes. Now, however, some Blue Valley Northwest students are more likely to be seen eating salads without dressing and organic bread. Those foods are components of two of the most popular diets-the Atkins diet.

Both diets prescribe ultra low crabohydrates and low fat over-all. Both diets also have a rigid introduction phase where the dieters are allowed few vegetables, very few carbs. And absolutley no fruit, nuts, bread, pasta, cereal, rice, potatos or grain products of any kind. The only carbohydrates allowed are the small amounts that are contained in vegetables and small salads.

The Atkins diet is considered the more extreme diet because it allowed dieters to eat large amounts of fats and unhealthy food. For example, dieters are allowed to eat only a few cups of salad, but are allowed to top it with a large variety of fatty foods.

According to the Associated Press, medical reports of Dr. Robert Atkins, creator of the diet, have recently been released showing that the 6 foot Atkins weighed 258 pounds when he died. This weight is considered obese by physicians. Also, Atkins was said to suffer from congestive heart failure and high blood pressure.

Atkins supporters discredit the report, instead pointing toward studies that haved showed Atkins patients have lower risks for hearr disease and in general have lower blood pressure.

The South Beach diet, on the other hand, asks dieters to try to avoid or cut back on fats and other unhealthy foods. Instead, dieters are encouraged to substitute organic, low-carb items into their diet.

"I'm careful not to eat extra candy or anything just extra sugar."

Jennifer Allen

Junior................................

"My mom is on the South Beach diet, so even though I'm not technically on it I still have to follow on it, I still have to follow the rules," Maureen McHugh, sophomore, said. McHugh said her mom no longer buys bread or past, only bands made out of all-organic material.

"I cheat on the diet, because I eat bread and dessert and stuff at school or more friends houses," McHugh said.

"Now that I'm starting to get used to it, it doesn't taste as bad as before, but it still doesn't taste like real food," McHugh said.

Jennifer Allen, junior, always tries to eat healthy to maintain her weight and stay in shape.

"I pack my lunch every day instead of eating cafeteria food because it is much healthier," Allen said.

Allen's typical lunch consists of a turkey or peanut butter and jelly sandwich, graham crackers or goldfish crackers, fruit and sometimes fruit snacks for dessert.

"But fruit snacks are high in sugar, so I can't eat those day," Allen said.

While Allen isn't try to lose weight, she is also conscientious to make sure she doesn't gain weight.

"I'm careful not to eat extra candy or anything that's just extra sugar," said Allen.

Allen plays golf, basketball and softball. She says her active lifestyle and healthy eating habits ensure she stays healthy.

The creators of the diets have posted warnings to young dieters on their Web sites.


Sports Writing Winner

Inside the Redskins: Week 5
Dan Oshinsky, senior, Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda, Md.

In the NFL, finding a player who can perform at a Pro Bowl level every game is tough. Finding a Pro Bowl-caliber player who can gab is even tougher. And finding a pro Bowl quote-machine who wears lime-green suits and sunglasses after midnight? There's only one: Primetime.

Walking through the Baltimore Ravens locker room at a half past 12 a.m. after a 17-10 Ravens comeback victory against the Redskins, it becomes clear that veteran corneback Deion Sanders, the man people call "Primetime" is not the most intimidating presence in the room - that title goes to the 6' 9" Jonathan Ogden, a left tackle who at 345 lbs., could probably make Shrek look small. Yet, Deion commands the attention in the building.

Arguably the greatest cover cornerback of all times. Deion does not seem physical, neither on nor off the field. But by the time this year ends, he will have played 13 seasons in the NFL, all in a way that is pure style and finesse. He is raw, outgoing, quotable and through and through, Deion.

Hence, as Deion notched his first interception of the year earlier in the game, everyone in the locker room wants a piece of the Deion hype. Cameras and tape recorders close in on his locker, and Deion futilely tries to shoo off some of the reporters.

"I'm a professional, fellas," he says. "You know I must get dressed first."

So the crowd waits, as Deion adjusts his green tie, buttons the buttons on his all-green suit and straightens his green slacks. He looks up towards the throng of reporters, and the questions start flying.

How does it feel to get an interception in a big win? "It feels wonderful, " Deion says. "It feels wonderful just to get back on the field and help my teammates."

Is it nice to get the win against a former team? "Well, it didn't matter where we were," he says. "I'm too old to be moved my emotions. I got too many old teams to be worried about old opponents and old teams.

A reporter asked whether or not he had trouble going up against a young wide receiving core of the Redskins, and Sanders replies, "Oh, I think every receiver I play against is younger.

Then there's cocky Deion responding to a question about a fake punt return for a touchdown, where the Ravens return specialist B.J. Sams faked an end around to Deion before running the ball up the sidelines for the score. Dows Deion mind being a diversion on the play?

"Oh, please, that's the least that I can do," he says. "I honestly knew that it was gonna work. I knew that I would take more than half the team with me" on the fake reverse.

All the while, Ravens players walk past Deion, shouting out "Prime-time! when they move past the flock of media. No one seems to really mind that Deion is wearing what appears to be a three-piece suit that is equal parts hideous and GQ, a color burst fashionable to the point where Georgio Armani, watching ESPNEWS somewhere late at night, weeps.

Soon Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis takes up the "Prime-time!" chant, and Deion decides that question and answer time is over. "I've got to go." he says. "My young brothers are calling me."

A reporter from a Mexican radio station isn't done yet, however. He boldly walks up to Deion and asks if Primetime could give a quick shout out to the Mexican radio audience. Deion doesn't even hesitate.

"Mexico, how you doing?" he called out "God bless you, good luck, I had a god time in Guadalajara! Mexico, I fish in El Salto. Mexico, a wonderful place to fish," He pauses for a second, then repeats with gusto, EL Salto! How you doin"? To my Mexico, I'm Deion Sanders."

I've still got my tape recorder running , so as the crowd disperses, I walk up to Deion and ask him about his interception. He's been talking for weeks about how he wants to intercept a ball and return it to the end zone for a touchdown, so I remind that, technically, he did catch the ball in the end zone on his interception, albeit the wrong end zone.

Deion takes a second to pull his sunglasses out of his shirt pocket, put them on and flashes a huge, Primetime smile. "Yeah, I almost touched the goal posts coming out of there," he says, fairly giddy.

I walk off out towards the Redskins locker room, which is just across the concrete hallway. Fred Smoot, the Redskins cornerback, a player who idolizes Deion, who wears Deion's number, 21 and who once said, "I'm not the next Deion Sanders; I'm the first Fred Smoot," is still chatting with a lone reporter.

His facial expressions seem to tell the whole story of the game. He know that the Redskins should not have allowed the Ravens to come back from a 10 point halftime deficit without scoring an offensive thouchdown and he simply cannot believe that his team is 1-4 and likely out of playoff picture. " this is a game we had to find a way to win, point blank, " he tells me.

As for the Ravens 17 unanswered points, he says that the team didn't come out with less intensity in the second half. Rather, the Redskins did not get the bounces in order to win. "We come in, and we had the attitude like we have to play just as hard, man," he says. "The beaks went their way, man. I mean, run a punt back, and (Ravens safety) Ed Reed made a play, a hell of a play," referring to Reed's fumble return for a touchdown.

But if there was ever a sign that Smoot, who matched Deion by intercepting a pass in the first half, has truly matured, it came in his next quote. In previous years, Smoot and other players freely criticized the team or aspect of the team after a bad loss. Now, when I tried to ask him if there was a play that he would second-guess in the game, he did not blame the stagnant offense or troublesome special teams. This was a team loss, he shot back, and he wasn't about to second-guess.

"Basically, right now, we're tired of doing that" he said. "Every game we've been in, every game we've played this year, we could've looked back and said. 'This play, that play.' We have to find a way to win. No more excuses.

Game Notes: The Redskins really seemed to control this game, but they let it slip away too easily. As soon as the offense proved incapable of hanging onto the ball or driving downfield, the defense weakened. Plus, a poor challenge by Coach Joe Gibbs hurt the team. Gibbs says he's adjusted to the instant replay system. Gibbs has challenged Ed Reed's fumble return TD, which was a al that was clearly not going to be overturned. Gibbs has to learn that you can't just challenge a call to try and cover your mistakes. Only challenge when the officials made a bad call, instead of challenging when your players made a bad play... This team clearly has the talent to win, but you have to wonder whether quarterback Mark Brunell feels comfortable back in the pocket. So far, he hasn't made the big plays to give the Redskins the advantage. He's good enough to keep them in games, but he has to really control the game to lead the Redskins to victory. Five touchdown passes in five games is not enough production form the QB spot ... Walking onto the field after the game. I noticed Redskins left tackle Jon Jansen who is out for the year, standing in the corner of the end zone, just staring up at the light of FedEx Field. Who knows what he was thinking. Perhaps he too is mystified by this team's collapse... With an away game for the Bears next week, the Redskins need a win to keep any hopes of playoff run alive, though with four division games left, plus through games against surging Detroit, Pittsburgh and Minnesota, they will have to be flawless to reach the postseason ... And the What Were They Thinking moment of the game: the JumboTron at the game repeatedly referred to Redskins fans at the "FedEx Field bangers" Quipped one reporter, "At least they're not calling the cheerleaders that."


Why Whitman remembers T.C. Williams' Titans
Dan Oshinsky, senior, Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda, Md.

T.C. Williams High School's Titans of Alexandria, VA. stepped off the buses into the hot August day in 1971. The roster's 68 players walked through the shadow of Whitman's dome and down to the stadium field. The Titans had arrived and were ready to scrimmage the Whitman varsity football team.

Two first-year head coaches, T.C.'s Herman Boone and Whitman's Bob Milloy, organized a preseason scrimmage at Whitman earlier that year. Many schools refused to scrimmage against a team with players of mixed races, and T.C. had integrated that fall, but Milloy kept his agreement with Boone.

The previous year, the Vikings started the season with six losses and struggled to keep pace with stronger county teams. The team finished with four wins, but athletic director Bill Dargert wanted to spruce up the football program that never had a winning record. He hired Milloy, who had never coached varsity football, to replace former coach Charles Karr and turn the team around, Milloy says he was determined to attract more athletes and make the Vikings a power house in the Montgomery Blue division.

While only two of Whitman's 45 players were black, T.C. fielded a much more diverse roster. Despite differences in racial make-ups, coaches say both teams came prepared to show their strengths at the scrimmage.

The coaches opted not to use referees and instead controlled the scrimmage themselves. Teams alternated possession of the ball every 15 downs. T.C. won the game 21-7.

The Titans' ability to execute plays and dominate on both sides of the ball impressed coaches, T.C. assistant coach Paul "Doc" Hines says. "We just really whipped them," he says.

Despite the loss, the Vikings played up to their abilities on offense and defense, Milloy says. "We were pretty happy about how we played," he says. "[The Titans] were extremely well coached and extremely talented, but we moved the ball on them a little bit. Coach Boone had a pretty good reputation as a winner, but we had no idea they were going to be as good as they were."

The Titians finished the season as the second-best team in the nation. Whitman compiled a 5-4-1 record, their first scrimmage provided a chance for both teams to prove themselves against quality competitors, coaches say. But Hines says his primary concern at the scrimmage was not the final score, but whether the team could come together, despite the circumstances off the field.

The Washington Post's headlines read similar to those from any other day in 1971. In one corner of the Sept. 11 issue, the headline read, "Klansmen Free on Bond; Jury to Probe Blast," The story noted the arraignments of Michigan Ku Klux Klan members and described five racially motivated shootings and bomb threats at schools across the nation. In the next column, "Pupils Calm; Faculty Tense," described the heightened racial issues at T.C. "The tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife," T.C. Principal Arnold Oates said. "But if we win a ballgame tomorrow and get a weekend under our belts, the students will come back more relaxed Monday."

During the fall of 1971, Francis Hammond, George Washington and T.C. high schools merged under T.C.'s name in accordance with Brown v Board of Education mandates requiring the desegregation of schools. Resistance from parents and pupils soon ensued.

Every day before school started, the football team arrived in their jerseys and guarded the building's front entrance to help quell the heightened tension among students. During the day, they helped break-up verbal disputes and even brawls between students. "We were like patrols or peacemakers," defensive end Darryl "Blue" Stanton says. "That was the role they wanted us to play. We lined up in a straight line along the school, and we just policed the area. The situation helped us come together."

The Alexandria school system wanted to show their commitment to the black community, so they hired Boone to coach, Boone says. He had been coaching high school football for 13 years, including one year as the Titans' coach E.J. Hayes High in Williamston, N.C., the top-ranked high school team in the nation in 1966. Despite Boone's credentials, the white community disapproved because they believed Bill Yoast, a white coach from Hammond, deserved the job, Boone says.

T.C. administrators chose Boone over Yoast in part because Charlie Price, a black head coach at Langley High, encourage T.C. to hire Boone, Boone says. Despite the treat

Of racial conflicts, Boone says he could not refuse the large paycheck that T.C. offered him. "I was jumping into the fire, but $14,785 was a lot of money to turn down," he says.

Soon after accepting the position, Boone encountered Alexandria's prejudice hand when he woke up in the middle of the night to a cacophony of crashing glass and screeching tires and found a toilet lying in his living room.

"You looked at that and said, "What did I do to deserve this?" he says. "It was at that moment that I could have gone the other way. I stared, and I said to myself, 'Hate hurts deeply. I've hot a choice. I can let hate make me a hater, or I can dedicate my life to try and make a difference with the young people.'"

Boone had the opportunity to unify the team for the first time at training camp with his players at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. Though teammates initially resisted playing together, mixed rooms and team training forced players to come together, Hines says. "We had to learn to respect each other at camp," he says. "We had to learn to depend on each other and work together, whether we wanted to or not. We didn't have a choice."

The boys began to trust in each other at the transitioned into the regular season Boone says. "Trust became the emotional glue that bound us together," he says. "When they discovered that what I preached was true, they began to believe."

Boone's maxim helped set the tone for the team early on, he says. "I don't give a damn early on, he says. "I don't give a damn about the color," he remembers telling his players. " The best man will play. They had to fight to keep their position. They had to play their behind off every week, and they had to accept the person for who he is and not what he looks like."

The Titans tested their newfound trust and respect for one another early on in the season. As the fourth quarter ticked away in the game against the Marshall High Statesmen Oct. 8, the Titans were behind. Coach Ed Henry's famed "Veer-T" option offense had made the Statesmen the best team in Northern Virginia and helped Marshall to a 16-7 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the game. The Titans had faced adversity beyond the nine-point to Marshall and refused to give up, Boone says.

With nine minutes to go, T.C. quarterback Ron "Sunshine" Bass capitalized on a Marshall fumble by lofting a 10-yard touchdown pass. Then, four minutes later, Bass handed the ball off to running back Frankie Glascoe, who tore through a hole in the right side of Marshall's defensive line and burst past the secondary for a 75-yard touchdown run. The Titans came back and won, 21-16. In the stands, T.C. fans shouted, "We have got it all together." The team had a flawless 5-0 record and was on their way to the Potomac District championship.

By Nov. 5, the Titans were 8-0 and needed only one win against rival Wakefield Warriors to clinch the Potomac Division championship. The Warriors were no match for the Titans' powerful one-two punch of consistent offense and smothering defense, and the Titans coasted to a 27-0 win. After the game, Boone told The Post, "We're a family. If we get to the State [Championship], we'll win it."

Off the field, parents and students continued to protest and demonstrate against the integration, but as the team continued to win games, members of the community began to accept one another, Hines says. "At one game, there were certain sections of the stands where they had white sections and black sections," he says. "Then the next game, they were mixing in together, they're talking to one another, they're sharing popcorn with one another and they become more involved.

The Post ranked the Titans as the best team in Washington, D.C., and Boone says that their dominance showed on the field. "By week nine, they felt that they could beat the Washington Redskins," he says. "They knew each other. They respected each other. They picked each other up. They were confident and trusted each other. They were just unstoppable.

The Titans rolled through the remainder of the season with an untainted record into the state championship game against Andrew Lewis High. T.C. took the field at Victory Stadium in Roanoke, Va., before 18,000 fans and Stanton says players were determined to achieve a perfect season. Glascoe rushed for two touchdowns and Bass added another. The defense dominated Lewis, sacking quarterback Eddie Joyce Jr. nine times. Lewis gained only two first downs the entire game, and finished with 5-yards on offense. T.C. won the game 27-0.

On the team's flight back to Alexandria, players celebrated their championship, toasted their achievements, including nine shutouts in 13 games, and forgot about the racial problems that once faced the team, Stanton says.

Hines attributes the Titans' successful season to the players believing in one of the many axioms coaches preached. "Its mind over matter," he says. "If you don't mind, it don't matter. The hard work you go through in order to be successful is very important. All the aches and bruises you've got aren't going to stop you, so lets get up and get back to work. You're going to take some knocks in life, but if you don't mind, it don't matter."

Twenty years after winning the state championship, the Titans reunited on the red carpet at the Uptown Theater in Northwest Washington, D.C. Guests, including President Bill Clinton, prepared for the premiere of the movie Remember the Titans, a film chronicling the team's improbable rise as champions.

Boone says he wants the nation to remember him and his team for more than just a movie, more than actor Denzel Washington yelling, "We will be perfect in every aspect of the game/" more than players calling out. "We are the Titans, the mighty, mighty Titans" as they warmed-up for games.

Now a motivational speaker, Boone says he still advocates respect, determination and friendship. Fifty years after Brown v. Board brought the Titans together, Boone still speaks about his and his team's experiences because he wants everyone to remember how they came together, he says. "I knew when black kids who said they weren't going to play with the whites and whites who said they weren't going to play with the blacks started going to each others parties and pools." he says. "I knew when they started talking to each other at lunch when others refused to talk. I knew when they fought for each other. I knew then a way to talk to one another. [The Titans] found a way to talk to one another. That's when we became a team.

Boone says that as long as racial issues remain in society, he will still stand by his maxim. "It's okay to accept the soul of an individual," he says. "If you can just find a way to talk to one another and be comfortable talking to a person of another race, then that's the way to live you life.

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