April 25, 2018
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Students take lead to purge dirty dance

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Bangor High School student council representatives met Thursday with Principal Norris Nickerson and other administrators to outline a plan that addresses recent concerns over inappropriate dancing at school-sponsored functions.

Grace LeClair, the council’s president, said the closed meeting went well, and she believes both sides are on the same page going forward.

“We don’t want to eliminate dances altogether,” the 18-year-old senior said. “We just want to stop the problem at hand.”

The dancing in question, known as grinding, has raised eyebrows because it involves dance partners rubbing their bodies against each other in a sexually suggestive manner. Many feel it crosses the line between creativity and being inappropriate. Others contend that the dancing is simply a sign of the times the same way Elvis Presley used to shake his hips in the 1950s.

Either way, LeClair said Bangor shouldn’t be singled out over any other school in Maine or across the country.

“I don’t think our school is any worse than any other school,” she said. “I think [I], along with the rest of the student body, were hurt by being reflected in this light. It wasn’t fair.”

Nickerson told the Bangor Daily News earlier this week that school dances would be temporarily suspended until the problem was dealt with. Bangor Superintendent Betsy Webb said Thursday that the goal was never to put an end to student dances but to establish a process that would hold individuals accountable without pun-ishing everyone else.

“When this came up recently, before another dance was scheduled, we said let’s sit down and work out our expectations,” she said. “The student council, to their credit, recognizes and wants the responsibility in this matter.”

Webb said she has been dealing with a significant amount of damage control from parents in the last few days since the issue came forward, but she also said the communication line has been productive.

Dick Durost, executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association, said in an e-mail Thursday that the MPA has not addressed inappropriate dancing. He said the issue is and should be dealt with by individual schools or districts.

In October 2006, two southern Maine schools, Wells and Cape Elizabeth, banned grinding, setting up policies where students would be warned once, then asked to leave if the dancing continued.

LeClair said Bangor will adopt similar guidelines and will rely on self-policing from other students and chaperones.

“We understand the concerns from parents and teachers,” she said. “Their job is to protect us and the community. I think making the students understand that they are not trying to go against us but are trying to work with us is important.”

The next dance is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 26.

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