Dirty dancing

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Lauren Bandle doesn't mince words when describing the dance moves of some of her classmates.

"Gross and kind of nasty," she said, her distaste audible.

Bandle, a seventh-grader at Southwest Junior High School, said dirty dancing, also known as "grinding," used to be a problem at school dances. But since a new policy cracked down on student gyrating last fall, she has noticed a marked difference.

"Kids basically quit doing it," she said. "Nobody wanted to get in trouble or get kicked out of the dance."

Trish Bransky, Southwest principal, said her school enacted rules regarding suggestive dancing after Free State High School initiated a similar policy.

"We didn't have a big problem, but we thought it would be wise to express our expectations to students," Bransky said. "Basically, they know we don't tolerate it."

Grinding is a variation on the term "bump 'n grind," slang for dancing while pressed up and rubbing against another person. MTV viewers are used to seeing it; music videos feature grinding on a regular basis.

"We know that new dance moves come and go," Bransky said. "But no one should feel uncomfortable at a school dance."

Free State put its "no provocative dancing policy" in effect last September. The policy was written in a joint effort between administrators and student council members.

"It was time to do something, I think," said Mandy Ogunnowo, student council president at Free State High School. "The last two dances last spring were a little sketchy, and problems had been building."

Council members created a four-minute video to inform students of the new policy. In the video, the school's mascot, Freddy the Firebird, demonstrated the "do's and don'ts of dancing."

"We just tried to take a light-hearted approach," Ogunnowo said. "After some initial resistance, students seemed to adjust."

At Free State, dance chaperones give students one warning for grinding on the dance floor. A second offense will result in the student being tossed from the dance. Similar rules are in place at other schools.

Steve Nilhas, principal at Lawrence High School, said although new guidelines banning dirty dancing weren't districtwide, most schools have adopted a policy of some sort.

"This is basically a trickle-down effect from Free State High School's policy," Nilhas said. "I think schools decided to take a look, which is probably wise."

Nilhas said dirty dancing has not been a major problem at Lawrence High School in recent years.

Ogunnowo said the key to success for new guidelines was finding common ground.

"We live in an MTV world," she said. "That's what teenagers are used to seeing.

"If adults can work with us, which they have, then things definitely go more smoothly."

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