Last school year, Northeast High School in Anne Arundel County often seemed plagued by controversies that threatened to divide it.
With the beginning of a new school year days away, the turmoil appears to be growing.
An organization of parents of Northeast students, calling itself the Northeast Community Family Group, plans to rally tonight across from the Pasadena school in protest of the school's second-year principal, Joseph Carducci Jr.
Parents contend that he has tried to impose his strong religious and moral beliefs on students.
jTC Parents and students allege that Carducci, who came to the school last January, has told staff members he wants to talk with pregnant teen-agers considering abortion so that he might counsel them against it. He also is said to have removed a copy of Rolling Stone magazine from the school library because he felt it contained inappropriate pictures of the singer Madonna.
Carducci, who previously was an assistant principal at Andover and Annapolis high schools, this week sent a letter to all Northeast High families asking them to support the school "in the future regardless of the outcome of the decisions to be made."
An unsigned postscript to Carducci's letter stated that the principal never told faculty members to report pregnant students to him, but directed faculty members to assist those students.
Carducci could not be reached for comment.
Linda Grunder, a member of the newly formed parents' organization, said the postscript and a recent call she received from Superintendent Larry L. Lorton urging her not to go ahead with tonight's rally were just efforts to quell the controversy.
The principal has been embroiled in controversy almost since he set foot in Northeast High.
Parents of Northeast students attended a school board meeting in January to show their support for then-acting Principal William Myers, whom they wanted to see named permanently to the post. But Carducci, then-assistant principal of Annapolis High School, was named to replaced retiring Northeast Principal Joseph Cardamone.
By May 30, he had decided not to renew the contract of athletic director Bob Grimm. Grimm had been at the school 15 years and had just had one of the most successful seasons in school history, with the softball and baseball teams winning state championships.
But Carducci charged him with insubordination and removed him as athletic director.
During the final days of last school year, students circulated petitions and organized a protest in support of Grimm. The athletic director filed a grievance with the Board of Education and had the insubordination charges overturned, said Carol Vickery, another Northeast High parent. But Grimm has since been reassigned to Meade High School.
Meanwhile, Bart Rader, the assistant athletic director, last spring learned that Carducci had been advertising his job without first informing him he was being replaced. Rader has since been rehired.
Other issues have cropped up, too. Parents and students charged censorship, saying that Carducci had a desktop-publishing class remove reviews of the movies "The Doors" and "New Jack City" because they contained references to drugs and inappropriate language.
Much of the parents' information about Carducci has come from sources in the school who remained anonymous because they said they feared for their jobs, Vickery said.
While the parents' organization was created to help re-instate Grimm, Grunder said its focus now is to restore harmony at the school -- and force Carducci out.