Putting the Kibosh on Dirty Dancing at School Dances … by Canceling Them

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.

From WMUR:

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.


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7 thoughts on “Putting the Kibosh on Dirty Dancing at School Dances … by Canceling Them

  1. Uh, what is wrong with dirty dancing?
    Maybe this is just a generational misconception, but while dirty dancing can get raunchy, there is a lot of grinding which is absolutely friendly. I been ground on by plenty of my gay friends, and have also been ground on by straight girls. That was in high school. Today that rarely happens, as I tend to be pretty goal oriented when I am in a bar or at a party to hook up with someone new or hookup with the person I came with.
    I think this is really just much ado about nothing.
    Additionally, the argument is pretty slippery-slope esque. While I think that many of today’s youth are cheated out of important life lessons, it is because much of their opportunities to prove themselves (which is when many of the crucial learning and maturing moment happen) are taken away; jsut as they are here in this dance. Clearly homecoming involves students who are completely new to the school as well. I guess they never got an opportunity to obey the rules (even if they are archaic), instead they were denied the opportunity and punished for others’ inability to do so.

  2. I agree with Gigi — I do know what is wrong with grinding. It’s a dance; I would expect the students to dance in a contemporary and age-appropriate manner. These are high school students. That’s a common way to dance at a non-formal high school dance.

    I remember that that was how dancing went at the non-formal dances at my high school. No one was kicked out and I do not remember seeing anyone discouraged from grinding. I cannot imagine why the New Hampshire administrators would be so surprised by…dancing. (And, though I love you to pieces, Katie, I was a bit surprised that you took this stance)

  3. I think the problem with a group of teenagers grinding on each other is that if video of the event were recorded by adults, they may be arrested for lewd behavior…


    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with expecting teenagers to keep that off the school dance floor and at private parties where it belongs.


    Cancelling the entire school dance is stupid. Hold the dance, kick out the kids who don’t follow the rules with the added punishment of not allowing those students to attend future school dances that year.
    Problem solved.

  4. Honestly, from what I’ve seen at my high school dances (I graduated 2 years ago but I doubt things have changed) grinding was the only kind of dance anyone knew. I mean it’s not like theres some giant “hit dance” out there like the electric slide anymore, where everyone knows what to do all together. (I am not counting “teach me how to dougie” or the likes.) If kids weren’t grinding, they were standing around doing nothing, looking exceptionally awkward because they don’t know any dance moves. If the schools really want to do something, maybe they should teach them some new dance moves. I know in my high school there was a huge vote to do some sort of ball (a la Harry Potter in a way) and learn ball room dancing and get big poofy dresses and ridiculous masks. It may not be popular everywhere but I mean try grinding with a hoop skirt, not going to happen.

  5. There is grinding and there is raunchy simulation of sexual acts that are not only vulgar but would put pressure not only on the dancers themselves (these hormonal, curious and daring people) but also on others who are not comfortable with grinding to find themselves doing it or pushing that boundary further. They have enough of these pressures already, there is no place in school to encourage or turn a blind eye to such behavior. I’m sure there is still a lot of room for teens to be romantic or physical without rubbing their butts on each others’ crotches. I’m with Alzaetia, kids will always do these things but grinding is for the private parties, those who want to grind invite each other and do so and those who do not, just do not go.

    I get cancelling some dances, it is because usually the kids that persist when told by teachers to stop something usually the ‘Bobbys’. Mom will come and throw a fit and accuse everyone of something or the other. So they just avoided that by banning a few dances and make it clear so that when Bobby and crew do it again, mommy won’t have much ground to stand on.

  6. I graduated from high school 4 years ago and grinding was normal back then too. I mean, I entered freshman year 8 years ago, so grinding can’t be attributed to Lady Gaga or Snooki because it existed long before then. I actually can’t believe you’ve never heard of it. Older adults and parents have always had a problem with the latest dance trend, even back when it was dancing without wearing gloves (skin-on-skin contact, the HORROR). So it’s a little silly to think anyone is going to take parental concerns seriously now. Teenagers dance the way they do partly because they know it freaks out adults. Raising a fuss about it just makes it more attractive. I mean hello, isn’t that Teenagers 101? Make something forbidden and they’ll just do it more. That’s why the D.A.R.E. program was such a failure.
    Grinding is tame compared to juking, by the way. If you want to get all up in arms about sexually suggestive dancing, look that one up.

  7. The point here isn’t the grinding. It’s the fact that they were asked to stop and didn’t. We all have to do things that we don’t want to do, and if we disregard the “stop” part of it, we have consequences to pay. End of story.

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