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Fittingly, the IB teachers afford their adored brainiacs unique privileges never extended to mainstream students. "Sometimes you see a student drawing in class while you're giving a lesson, and you have to decide whether they're not paying attention, or whether that's just how they take their notes," says Marilyn Buehler, who recently retired from teaching IB English at North. "They're just used to multitasking."

Even administrators pamper the IB students, mindful that the IB kids keep that all-important "school label" in the "outstanding" range. "Our school label wouldn't be where it is if it weren't for these 400 kids who all exceed the AIMS on their first try," says Julie Pallissard, coordinator of North's IB program. At North, which actually closed for a while in the early '80s because of declining enrollment, IB is regarded as the magnet program that literally brought the school back.

Almost begrudgingly, the mainstream students admit to a certain respect for their brainier borders. "Hey, they're intelligent, so why shouldn't they show it?" says Astrid's friend Monica, back at the non-IB lunch table.

"I wish I could be like them," admits Astrid in a quiet voice, looking down at her cheese crisp.

It's a sentiment, sadly, that's apparently not shared by the IB kids. Whenever IB-ers talk about mainstreamers, there's seldom a touch of envy. And when they really get honest, as this one North High IB student did when she posted her opinions anonymously on the school's forum on schoolscum.com, they can be brutal.

"To sum it up," the girl wrote, "mainstream is not only stupid, but the majority of them will grow up to mow the lawns of the IB kids. IB kids rule."

"It's all right, I guess, to have them at our school as role models," says Astrid's friend Fernando, offering consolation. "But some of them could be nicer."

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Jimmy Magahern
Contact: Jimmy Magahern