#40: Claudia and the Middle School Mystery

We start with Claudia doing some remedial math homework to remind us that she’s riddled with learning disabilities. Janine is helping her and Janine is actually impressed that Claudia seems to understand most of what’s going on. She’s confident that Claud can pass – or ace – the huge test she has coming up the next day. And when the text comes, Claudia busts ass and thinks she really did ace it. She’s on cloud nine, even celebrating with the BSC at the meeting.

The next day she gets her test back and is thrilled to see she got a 94 (A-!) on her test. But then her teacher, Mr. Zorzi, asks her and another girl named Shawna Riverson to stop and see him on the way out. He asks them to put their papers side by side and it becomes clear (though not for a while to Claudia) that they have each gotten the same problems wrong and had gotten them wrong in the same way. Mr. Zorzi believes one of them cheated, and since Shawna is a good student, he believes it’s Claud. Claudia is gutted, since she knows she didn’t cheat; still, she doesn’t think there’s any hope of convincing Mr. Zorzi that Shawna cheated, due to each girl’s academic reputation.

The phone call Claudia dreads comes in – her parents are informed of the situation. They gently question her about it, but Janine sticks up for her, saying she knows Claudia didn’t cheat because a) she knew the material and b) she’s not a cheater. The Kishis apologize and say of course they believe her, but she feels like they have lingering doubts. She also can’t figure out why Shawna cheated – and off Claudia, of all people – but she’s determined to get to the bottom of it, if only to save her own ass (and pride).

Luckily, the BSC stands behind Claud and they’re on the case. Dawn and Mary Anne have homeroom with Shawna and some of her friends and say they’ve been acting weird lately, passing notes and acting like know-it-alls. Dawn also knows Shawna’s locker combination (it’s next to hers) and offers to break in and see if any of the notes say anything incriminating. Some of the BSC is a little sketched on that idea. (Mallory thinks they’d need a warrant.) Instead, Claudia follows Shawna and her friends into the bathroom and overhears them talking about the incident. Shawna’s bragging about how she got away with it by giving Mr. Zorzi an honest, innocent look, and her friends laugh about it, calling it the “perfect crime” because no one would ever think she’d cheat off dummy Claudia. (The only reason Shawna did was because she heard Claudia telling Mary Anne that genius Janine was helping her study.) So now Claud knows the truth – she just has to prove it to her teacher. They decide the only way they might get proof is to “check” Shawna’s locker.

The BSC gathers at Dawn’s locker after school when they know Shawna has a Pep Rally meeting. They send Mallory and Jessi home so they don’t get in trouble in case shit goes down, and then they send Mary Anne since she was so tentative and wary about Dawn’s criminal plan in the first place. Then Stacey sends Kristy on her way, thinking that fewer people will attract less attention. So Dawn, Claudia, and Stacey settle in for the B&E. Stacey stands lookout while Dawn opens the locker and she and Claudia paw through it. Claud finds a note that says:

“Congratulations on your A-. Who would have guessed that C.K.’s paper would have had so many right answers?”

Claudia shoves the note in her pocket and she and Dawn run and find Stacey. But then Claudia realizes that she can’t use the note as proof without admitting that she broke into Shawna’s locker, so she returns it. She’s right back where she started. In class, she tries to trap Shawna into confessing but it doesn’t work. She notices Shawna writing a note to her friend and leans over to read it… and that’s when Mr. Zorzi catches her in what looks exactly like a cheating scenario.

Ruh-roh. But it’s Janine to the rescue! She shows up at SMS and convinces the principal (who’s obviously a big Janine fan) that Claudia was prepared for the test and felt good about it and should get a fair chance to prove that she didn’t cheat. The principal and Mr. Zorzi decide that, in math class, while everyone else is studying in small groups, Claudia will get to re-take the test to prove she knows the material. This time she does even better than the first time, only missing two questions. Mr. Zorzi nuts up and apologizes for doubting her, and then he calls Shawna to his desk. He offers her the same opportunity as Claudia, but she blanches. She finally confesses, admitting that she cheated because she’s stretched too thin with activities and even if she studied all night she wouldn’t be able to pass the test. Shawna gets an F on the test and a two-day suspension. Claudia gets a huge weight lifted off her shoulders.

At the BSC meeting, everyone surprises Claudia by making it a celebration (by “celebration” they mostly mean extra junk food and a soda toast). Claudia gives Janine a collage she made as a thank you. That night at dinner, her parents bring out a big cake that says CONGRATULATIONS, CLAUDIA. Everyone is just so proud of our Ms. Frizzle fashionista… including Claudia herself. *Hallmark after-school-special music swells* 

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