Published September 12 2013
Fargo principals say students have adjusted well to grinding bans at school dances
At Shanley High School, the Catholic school’s chaplain didn’t care for some of the moves he saw last year at school dances. So, inspired by a similar program started last year at Fargo North High, he launched a new initiative this fall, staffing volunteer dance instructors at the school’s orientation dance to teach students various dance styles.
That’s been followed up with dance lessons offered Wednesday nights, which drew eight students the first week and 11 students this past Wednesday, the Rev. Charles LaCroix said.
“We’re just starting, so it’s kind of slow, but the students showing up are having fun, learning how to dance instead of just freewheeling it out there,” he said.
As reported in the Grand Forks Herald Thursday, officials at Red River High School had to stop a school dance last Friday night to warn students that if they didn’t stop grinding, they would have to leave. Grinding typically involves the female dance partner rubbing or bumping her buttocks against the pelvis of the male partner.
An estimated 150 of the 200 students at the dance walked out, and some reassembled elsewhere in the city to dance as they pleased, the Herald reported.
Red River Principal Kris Arason told the newspaper that he had made clear during orientation at the start of the school year what kind of behavior was expected in class and at other school activities, including dances.
“The night of the dance they started dancing and they were … exhibiting behavior we had told them was not appropriate for school dances,” Arason said.
Fargo South High Principal Todd Bertsch said officials there first began to address grinding about four or five years ago. School dances prohibit grinding or “anything that would pose what we could consider to be not acceptable in a school environment,” he said. During class meetings at the start of the year, students are informed about what are considered inappropriate dance moves.
“And we’ve really had good luck with our students cooperating,” Bertsch said.
If students are seen performing dance moves deemed inappropriate, the deejay is given the opportunity to remind students of what’s acceptable, Bertsch said. If it keeps up, dance chaperones – school administrators, teachers, parents and school resource officers – will first give the students a verbal warning or nod. Students who still don’t stop are asked to leave the dance.
Bertsch said the school has seen a slight reduction in dance participation since the grinding ban went into effect, but he isn’t sure if that correlates to the ban or to other factors, such as more students working part-time jobs. The school still sees strong turnout for the homecoming dance and prom, he said.
Fargo North High first addressed grinding in fall 2012, initially visiting with student council and Key Club members for feedback about what would happen if the dance move were banned. While the school doesn’t tolerate any dance moves considered to be sexual in nature, “the biggest issue was with regard to grinding,” Principal Andy Dahlen said.
“We wouldn’t allow that to happen in our commons during the regular school day, wouldn’t allow it to happen at any other school function, why are we allowing it to happen at our dances?” he said. “And so we were able to, I think, convince a number of kids that that seemed to be inappropriate. Some were relieved that we were addressing the topic, and it kind of went without a whole lot of fanfare then.”
Some students said they thought a grinding ban would hurt dance attendance, and indeed turnout was down a bit at last year’s Halloween dance, Dahlen said. But the creation of an impromptu dance academy taught by the school’s Latin teacher and his wife proved successful, drawing dozens of students each week, and prom attendance was up over the previous two years, he said.
“In fact, we haven’t had to even address the grinding, because I think we did a thorough job of talking to kids and clubs about what’s appropriate,” he said.
The North High dance program inspired Shanley’s initiative this fall. Principal Ed Mitchell said having instructors at the orientation dance didn’t hurt attendance, and in fact “we were asking kids to leave at the end.” But some students did complain afterward that the lessons had interrupted the flow of the dance, so the Wednesday night lessons were offered as a continuing proactive approach, he said.
“Instead of the blame and shame approach, it’s what we can do to minimize that and provide a positive alternative,” Mitchell said.
Of course, no discussion about sexually explicit dance moves these days is complete without mention of Miley Cyrus’ “twerking” episode during last month’s MTV Video Music Awards.
Asked if North High has had to address the dance move yet, Dahlen said, “What’s twerking?”
After having the backside-bouncing move explained, he said, “You just added another topic for my Friday meeting with my admin team.”
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Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528