Ah, punishment, a word that brings up anecdotes, questions, and discussions on equity. It also, of course, leads to discussions on what might have caused bad behavior in the first place, as evidenced by a recent story out of Plaistow, New Hampshire, where Dirty Dancing became more than a film title and the entire student body was penalized for the actions of a few.
A New Hampshire high school has canceled two dances over concerns that student dance moves are becoming too sexually suggestive.
Officials at Timberlane Regional High School in Plaistow say the spirit week and homecoming dances have been canceled. Principal Donald Woodworth tells The Eagle-Tribune that last year chaperones become uncomfortable when students started “grinding,” a form of dirty dancing…
… in which people dance close together in a sexual manner.
Some students had to be thrown out of the dance for ignoring repeated requests to stop.
Okay, first of all, the impression that this sort of behavior was attempted in the first place is disturbing. At what point did a teen’s self-respect denigrate to this degree?
It’s really easy to blame the prevalence of public grinding on Lady Gaga or Snooki, but there were some pretty sexually suggestive songs in existence when I was in high school, and I don’t recall anyone crossing the acceptability line when “Baby Got Back” came on.
Or, if they did, one warning was enough to result in its cessation (or in quick removal). Which leads to the bigger discussion, I suppose.
When did the entitlement complex that so many of today’s adolescents have become the norm rather than the exception?
I blame parents, who have shown by example that the rules don’t always apply. That creating a scene to the degree that media attention is being given makes you somehow above the law. That their child’s happiness comes first and foremost, and to hell with everybody else.
Obviously, any parent is going to want the best for their own children, but the line needs to be drawn—in bold print. In the long run, allowing your progeny to weasel out of punishments over and over and over is not doing them any favors.
Say, for example, your kid calls someone a racial slur at school. When you receive the “Bobby’s getting suspended for bullying call”, you’re angry and upset. Who wants to believe that his or her kid would do that? So when you pick up Bobby, furious with and ashamed of him, and he tells you what the other kid said to him, you’re almost relieved. Aha, an enemy! You won’t have to face the fact that Bobby did something really, really bad.
So you go charging back to the school, freak out on the principal, accuse him of not getting the whole story, threaten the school with a lawsuit for putting Bobby through unnecessary pain and suffering, and suddenly, the problem goes away. Bobby gets a couple of demerits, and you’ve taught him a lesson he’ll not soon forget.
Fast forward a few years, to when Bobby is eighteen. He’s at work, and someone rubs him the wrong way. He recalls the word he said all those years ago, and how Mommy protected him from getting any sort of consequence. Confident in that knowledge, he lets it rip.
And, depending on the reaction of the other party, he ends up a) fired, b) arrested, or c) dead. So, yes, schools do need to take a hardline approach when parents cannot or choose not to.
That being said, though, is it fair to punish the entire student body for a small group of Bobbys that somehow think they’re above the rules? No. Of course not. Better to make the rules and expectations (and, of course, consequences for infractions) crystal clear and then … follow through on them.
And in an ultimate twist, the school’s prom and yearly semi-formal are still on. Either the district is hoping tuxes and gowns will bring out the best in its students, or they’re buying time to create really clear ground rules.
Either way, I see this event as less about inappropriate behavior at a school function and more about the larger problem of teens running amok in American society today.