Instead of their usual dance, some high school students will be having a bonfire to celebrate homecoming this week — an activity that has been deemed a safer option than the sexually suggestive “grinding” that teens have been breaking into on dance floors across the country.
In fact, the students — of Gorham High School in New Hampshire — won’t get to have any dances this year except for the prom, as the student council itself called off all others. The move was spurred by principal Chris Record outlawing grinding during a dance last year, prompting a majority to stage a walk-out from the event. Record recently wrote to parents about that, noting, “the senior class officers thought seniors would boycott any dance that was held and therefore, the hosting organization would not raise sufficient funds.” Also, he added, the council “did not want to deal with the hassle and headaches that dances had become.”
Students have been voicing their disappointment, with one senior telling the Portland Press Herald on Tuesday, “Word around the school is no one is going to go [to the bonfire], and it’s going to be lame.”
And, Record tells Yahoo Parenting, he’s disappointed, too. “I think it’s unfortunate that kids don’t know how to dance and have fun in ways other than grinding,” says the principal, himself a father of two. “And while in some ways the school is seen as ‘taking this away from us,’ what we’re really trying to do is just keep kids safe.”
After all, the behavior of students at dances, he explained in the note to parents, “would never be condoned during the school day.” Record defines grinding in the memo as “a girl having her back and buttocks pushed up/pulled up against the boy’s groin with the boy’s hands on her hips and other places,” and detailed how younger students “have complained about being forced/manipulated/encouraged to participate in grinding.” As a result, he explained, parents have griped about their children being harassed at dances and “very few GHS staff members have been willing to serve as chaperones because of the awkward position this places them in of being present for this dancing and having to break it up.” (As for the prom, Record noted, that “has always been better because [students] are dressed up. It is a classier event.”)
“It’s a real struggle for schools,” Record tells Yahoo Parenting of hosting student events in the era of truly dirty dancing, which has seen a spate of schools nationwide putting similar dance bans into effect. “Dances have always been exciting and fun for students. It’s part of our culture in U.S. schools to host dances. But unfortunately the sexual and objectifying nature of dancing right now just doesn’t match what our school can condone.”
Praising the “great kids” and community of Gorham, Record insists, “It’s not the students fault, but we just got to a point where we couldn’t host those types of dances, because they’re not safe or respectful for students and don’t represent what we’re about.”
The challenge now, he says, isn’t about deciding whether to continue to ban boogying, it’s how to offer other opportunities kids can enjoy at school. “The key is to get to the point where it’s not students against the administration, with kids saying, ‘We’ll show them, we won’t go’ to dances or events,” says Record. “That’s not what I want. I want to find way to have fun together in a respectful way. And I’m trying.”
(Top photo from Dirty Dancing: Everett Collection)
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