Student barks; teacher frets; Pique: A high school senior isn't about to forgive and Anne Arundel math teacher who kept him out of the National Honor Society

THE BALTIMORE SUN

An Anne Arundel County math teacher who says she has been followed and hounded by a student she helped keep out of the National Honor Society has twice called the police for help and appealed to fellow teachers for advice on dealing with the situation.

Kay Sokoloff, a 51-year-old geometry teacher who has taught at Chesapeake High School for more than 17 years, told police that her former student, Franklin Pierce Wright III, come to her house late at night angry that she had black-balled his application to the honor society.

Wright, an 18-year-old senior with a 3.8 grade point average, acknowledges that he has been menacing the teacher for more than a month, loudly barking at her in the hallways at school and honking his horn in front of her house several times a day.

"I will be angry at her for the rest of my life," he said. "She deserves to be shut up in a little hole."

Wright likens having a high grade point average without a National Honor Society membership to "having a 1600 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test and all 'D' grades."

"If colleges don't see National Honor Society on the application, they are going to think this kid doesn't have what it takes," said Wright.

Franklin Pierce Wright Jr. said his son couldn't even tell him about the rejection.

"He was devastated because I was in it," said the 49-year-old industrial sales representative.

Each spring the guidance office at Chesapeake generates a list of juniors with at least a 3.5 grade point average.

Each is asked to fill out an application for the honor society. Teachers judge them in three categories: character, scholarship and leadership.

On a five-point scale, the teachers can rank any student regardless of whether they have had that student in class. Any mark below three requires a written explanation.

A student has to have an average of 12 to be admitted. In his class of 357, 40 students, less than 12 percent, made it into the organization.

National Honor Society members are eligible for 250 college scholarships through the national organization, which has headquarters in Reston, Va.

Wright says that he had an average of 11.5.

When he was rejected in the spring, he applied again last fall.

"I thought National Honor Society meant a lot. I thought it was an establishment I wanted to be part of," said Wright.

"I was involved in choir, drama, and I was even an exchange student. I thought I deserved to be in National Honor Society."

Advanced classes, activities

Wright takes advanced placement physics, calculus and computer science. He also has an extra class -- the school's elite vocal ensemble -- and has starred in several school plays.

After the second rejection, he appealed to Principal Harry Calender, who talked to him about what had happened.

"They have a right to know why they were rejected," said Calender, who in 13 years has gotten only two student appeals about getting into the honor society.

Calender says the vote of just one teacher cannot keep a student out of the National Honor Society, but Wright said he figured out mathematically that it was Sokoloff who had kept him out.

He said Sokoloff gave him four points out of 15.

"If she has that kind of a power to keep him out of National Honor Society, then my impression of NHS has gone way down," said Wright's father.

"It was a real slap in the face for him."

The elder Wright said he thought Sokoloff had "blown [the incidents] out of proportion" and that he "took it as a learning experience for Frank."

Called at home

After meeting with Calender, Wright called Sokoloff at home late Dec. 22. She had been his teacher in ninth-grade geometry where he earned an "A" both semesters.

At the end of the second semester, he wrote her a long letter criticizing her grading policy. He felt she was "imprecise."

"He always challenged my grading," said Sokoloff.

"He kept saying that mathematics was not always black and white."

Wright was the first student she ever opposed for National Honor Society membership, she said.

Wright showed up at the Sokoloffs' house after talking with his old teacher.

Kay Sokoloff's husband, Leonard, opened the door to find him waving an answering machine tape, which he said was a recording of their conversation, and demanding to speak with her.

Leonard took the tape out of his hands and called police.

"Who do you think you are, Linda Tripp?" said her husband.

"We don't get these kind of complaints that often," said Lt. Jeff Kelly, police spokesman.

"Occasionally, we have problems in school, but we don't get complaints of constant harassment outside of school."

Wright also called police asking whether he could press charges against Sokoloff for verbal abuse and theft of his answering machine tape.

Damage to mailbox

Police came back to the Sokoloff home a few weeks later when the mailbox was bashed in.

Wright says he did not do it.

He does, however, acknowledge honking at her home and barking at her in the hallway.

Wright must pass Sokoloff's house to get home, and he honks, no matter what the time of day. She said she has also heard him yelling out his car window.

Wright also said he has "barked" at her in the hallways at school.

"He just kept yelling bow-wow and ruff, ruff," said Sokoloff. The principal told her she needed adult witnesses before he could take any action against Wright.

"I am ashamed that it bothers me so much," the teacher said.

She said her blood pressure has gone up and she feels sick frequently at school.

She is fearful that someone may harm her beloved 1964 Volkswagen Beetle, which she drives to work daily.

Children in honor society

The Sokoloffs have three grown children -- all members of the National Honor Society at Chesapeake High School.

Her husband is a guidance counselor at Old Mill High School in Millersville.

Last week, she said, she posted a note on the Internet in a discussion area for Maryland teachers.

"I actually get physically ill when I see him," she wrote. She plans to retire in June, sell her house and move to North Carolina.

Wright plans to go to college next year at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

He also applied to Loyola College and Virginia Tech. He wants to major in computer science.

"I am not going to hurt her or her mailbox," he said.

Pub Date: 2/13/99

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