The 2010 Lake High School Homecoming Dance came to a grinding halt last Saturday night – or rather, it came to a “no-grinding halt.”
By around 9 p.m., well before the dance was scheduled to end, a number of students had left in protest of a recently instituted “no-grinding” policy that prohibited the popular form of dancing that school officials feel is sexually provocative and a little too “up-close-and-personal” for a school setting.
Sophomore Dakota Jakey said he feels it wasn’t just the policy, but the timing of the announcement that grinding would be prohibited at the dance added to the students’ frustration.
“When we heard the announcement Friday morning, we were mad,” he said. “People had already bought their tickets to the dance. This type of dancing had been allowed in previous years, so why not announce the policy earlier so we could decide whether or not we even wanted to go?”
Though Jakey admitted it may be “awkward” to describe grinding, he said many students enjoy the dance style. “The principal said they were issuing a no-grinding policy because they didn’t want students’ genitals rubbing against one another,” he said. “That made some kids laugh, but many of us were upset that our choice of how to dance was taken away.”
Lee Herman, Lake principal, said he understood some students and parents were upset with the dance policies. “It is a new policy and it is new for the kids,” Herman said. “The issue is, from our standpoint, that a dance is a school-sponsored event and we will not allow behavior at a dance that is not allowed at school. If they want to dance that way they should do it in the privacy of their parents’ home or at a friend’s home.”
Herman added that although the school does not have a written “dance policy,” he was following the code of conduct policy in the Student Handbook.
“You would not be able to participate in that behavior during the course of the day,” Herman said. “We will make sure from now on that students and parents know the policy further in advance of school dances.”
Herman described what happened with the homecoming dance as a “comedy of errors,” between information getting to students and parents as well as decisions the DJ made concerning music.
“They (students) did a good job for 1.5 hours and then we had a problem,” Herman said. “The DJ was told that this was a school dance and that he should play appropriate music.
“The kids were asking why they could not hear certain songs,” the principal said. “The DJ, knowing the message in some of the songs, would not play them. The song choice was not my decision.
“I don’t know the name of the songs or anything about the songs. I guess I am just too old,” Herman continued. “I don’t have an issue with songs as long as there is appropriate language. A song that has the ‘f’ word being used in it 15 times is not appropriate.”
Students, in protest of the music that was being played, held a “sit-in” of sorts, sitting on the gym floor for several minutes.
“When the DJ started playing all country music, stuff like ‘Cotton-eyed Joe’ and older songs, everyone sat down because they didn’t want to dance to any of the songs,” said senior Alexa McNamee.
“He (the DJ) made an announcement that he saw that we were unhappy but he had rules and regulations that he had to follow and that he couldn’t play some of the music that we were requesting because of the words or the ‘message.’
“It’s not only our school that does this – everyone does,” she said. “So for us to say we can’t do it, it’s like saying we can’t dance. What are you going to go to homecoming and do? Stand there?”
“Some of my friends were talking about leaving and going back to a friend’s house to have our own homecoming,” McNamee said, adding that she and her date chose to rent some movies and spend the rest of the evening at home.
“A bunch of students went outside to the parking lot,” Jakey said. “People turned on their cars, tuning the radio to the same station and started to dance.
“I heard the police were called to get people to leave,” he said.
Derek Clawson, whose daughter Dekoada, a senior, was surprised to see police and students in the parking lot when he arrived at about 9:30 p.m.
“Dekoada called me at about 8:45 and asked if I could come get her,” he said “She said, ‘The dance sucked – they’re ruining it.’ I just thought it was typical teenage drama – maybe someone had the same dress.
“I understand what the principal’s trying to say, but my opinion is, it’s my job and the other parents’ job to teach their kids morals and proper etiquette in public,” he said. “It’s his job to educate my child.
Clawson suggests the principal hold a town-hall meeting for the parents to discuss the policy. “He can tell us exactly what his opinion is, and let us respond in kind about what we feel our taxes are paying him to do.
“Let’s make sure the rest of the events and the dances these kids have the rest of the year – especially the seniors – are memorable experiences,” he said.
Brenda Jakey, Dakota’s mom, suggests the students have input in the decision-making process. “You’re talking about kids that are almost adults,” she said. “Had they contacted student council and tried to come up with a compromise of some kind, this might have been avoided,” she said.
“I’m almost positive that most of these kids wouldn’t have given a crap if they had a voice,” she said. “I don’t think it’s about the grinding, I think it’s about the choices.”
Herman said the school would work with student council and student class officers to put together a play list for future dances.
“I want a list that I can hand to a DJ,” Herman said. “If there is a radio version of the song I am OK with that. To me, if a song gets through the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) then I am ok with that.” I have been seen as the evil dictator in this, that I was trying to take away their fun,” Herman said. “Going forward, we need everyone involved, including the parents who could be chaperones.”
Herman said he has received phone calls and emails from parents on both sides of the issue.
“A “big issue” at Clay
Jeff Thompson, principal at Clay High School in Oregon, said the school had the same issues with some students dancing inappropriately.
“This was a big issue for us last year,” Thompson said. “I called other schools in other states and schools in Ohio asking what they did to put policies in place for dances. We want our kids to take a respectful stance on how they conduct themselves at a dance as well as in our hallways, in their lives and in how they dress.”
Thompson said he fielded questions from parents last year concerning the school’s stance on dancing and even the dress code for the dances. “I don’t think many parents totally understood what grinding meant,” Thompson said. “I told parents that when you see your daughter bending over and guys, not one but two to three behind them grinding up against her, you will change your mind on grinding.
Over the summer, Clay wrote formal dance guidelines that are included in the Student Handbook as well as online at the high school’s website. The guidelines include specific policies for dress as well as what will be considered inappropriate dancing, which includes “moshing,” “body-surfing,” “slam-dancing,” and any style of dancing that suggests sexual innuendo.
“Sexually-suggestive dancing will result in the student's removal from the event, and may hinder or prevent his or her participation in future school dances and events,” the policy says.
Clay has also written Formal Dance Guidelines, complete with photos of what types of clothing will be considered appropriate and inappropriate dress.
Thompson said this year’s homecoming dance was attended by 700 students and, for the most part, went off without a hitch.
“We have rules during the school day, so why would you think a school dance would be any different?” Thomson asked. “We as administrators and educators are technically babysitters during the dance. We need parents to please back us on our rules.
“We are not a nightclub and we do not want to condone that,” he said.