With Smokers In Restrooms, Students Try To Hold It In

The Scene - County currents and undercurrents

October 31, 1990|By Marc LeGoff

For many county high school students, "Smoking in the Boys Room" is no longer the hip, anti-establishment anthem it was for teen-agers in the 1970s and 1980s.

Actually, students smoking in the boys and girls restrooms are keeping some pupils away from using the lavatories for their primary function -- releasing stress accumulated during the day.

Since the 1987-88 school year, students have been prohibited from smoking at designated areas on their school grounds. In order to satisfy their nicotine habits, many violate the smoking policy and sneak into the restrooms to smoke.

"All you have to do is spend a few seconds in the bathroom and you get engulfed with smoke," said Gina Spencer, a 15-year-old sophomore at Centennial High. "It makes your clothes smell horrible after you come out.

I try to avoid them as much as possible."

Last school year, the administration at Atholton High resorted to keeping a majority of the restroom doors locked in order to battle the problem. This year, however, the doors are not routinely locked, says principal R. Scott Pfeifer.

"We feel that we've experienced some improvement," Pfeifer said, "but as long as the students continue to smoke indoors, it is going to be a problem."

Tara Murphy, 17, vice president of the senior class at Atholton, claims that restroom doors are still being locked at her school.

"For a while at the beginning of the year, the situation was pretty ridiculous," Tara said. "If you needed to go, it was your own tough luck."

"Things are better now," she adds, "but sometimes you have to walk halfway around the school to find one that's open. Try explaining that to your teacher when you come back to class late."

Pfeifer says that a custodian might inadvertently forget to unlock a restroom door now and then, but that it is not done intentionally.

Marc Rey, a 14-year-old sophomore at Glenelg High, notices that some of the restrooms at his school are locked on occasion also. "It's no big deal," says Marc. "You just have to walk around until you find one that's not locked."

Will high school restrooms ever be smoke-free?

"Not until students exert peer pressure on their classmates," said Patti Vierkant, public information officer for Howard County Public Schools.

"Nothing's going to change until smoking is not a cool thing to do. The administrators have enough on their hands without having to continually monitor the bathrooms."

One suggestion Tara makes is that extra-sensitive smoke detectors be installed, "so the violators could at least receive a little jolt."

SOURCE: Marc LeGoff


The Howard County Historical Society Research Center has a wonderful book on its gift shelf that has sent this visitor into the past for the last few days.

This atlas is a printed reproduction of the county in 1878, when this nation had recently passed its first centennial. What first struck me was the population of the county: 14,150 people.

Howard County was third from last in Maryland county population, with Caroline and Calvert rounding out the bottom. An early report from the 1990 census listed the county's population at 186,131, a 64 percent increase from the last decade.

Other facts are interesting for the scholarly pursuit or to fill dead air time around the dinner table.

For instance, the land that I live on used to belong to Charles Carroll of Carrollton. He was a most famous Marylander, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence and co-founder of the B&O Railroad.

Of course, to live on land that used to be the property of Carroll is no unique feat; some historians regarded him as the richest man in America at the time of the Revolutionary War, and he owned scads of property throughout Maryland.

In this atlas, one can still see where the lost town of Triadelphia was situated. The town, ravaged by floods in 1868 and 1869, became desolate and was later bought by the state to create Triadelphia Reservoir.

So on Howard County's southern border, there exists another Atlantis -- perhaps of less than mythic qualities -- eight fathoms below.

One reality then -- but a labeling pretense today -- was the turnpike.

The atlas shows the county having four turnpikes: the Baltimore & Washington (Route 1), Columbia (Route 29), Clarksville (Route 108) and Frederick (Route 144).

It appears only the Frederick Turnpike had any toll booths. If you wanted to travel from Ellicott City to Mount Airy, four turnpike operators had to be paid with appropriate change.

Imagine traveling 16 miles on I-95 or I-70 and having to pay toll at four separate junctions. No wonder the state and federal government eventually took over the privately owned routes.

And with the existence of a Columbia turnpike comes this question: Was there a Columbia before there was a Columbia? Yes, and its post office was roughly at the junction of Routes 29 and 108. And an Oakland Mills Post Office could be found 1 miles due south of the Columbia Post Office.

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