Principal cancels dance to stop students from twerking and blames Miley Cyrus


Miley Cyrus performs onstage during Hot 99.5Õs Jingle Ball 2013, presented by Overstock.com, at Verizon Center on Dec. 16, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Kyle Gustafson/For The Washington Post)

The principal and dean of students at a high school in Vermont cancelled the fall homecoming dance in an effort to stop students from “twerking” and blamed Miley Cyrus for starting the dance trend with her provocative appearance at the 2103 MTV Video Music Awards.

A letter signed by Mount Anthony Union High School’s Principal Sue Maguire and Dean of Students David Beriau, and published in the Bennington Banner, explains why they decided to cancel the homecoming dance and try to engage the students in a discussion about how to “find the balance between free expression and appropriate school behavior at dances.”

This is not the first school event to be called off because of what adults say is inappropriate dancing — back in 2011, for example, Skaneateles High School in New York cancelled a winter dance because of sexually charged dancing. This may, though, be the first dance of the new school year cancelled to stop twerking.

The letter said in part:

Over the past couple of years, since Miley Cyrus took the stage “twerking” at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, our students’ dancing behavior has crossed the line of what we can condone as appropriate behavior at a school. Twerking is dancing to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving a low squatting stance and thrusting movements. Students do not face one another or remain with the same person for the length of the song….

As a school we are responsible to keep students safe and teach them how to interact with others appropriately. One of the issues that emerges with this highly sexualized form of dancing is consent.

When faculty spoke with some of our students about how the dancing starts between two people, we were told by students that someone just comes up behind you and starts. One female described being uncomfortable when a male student she didn’t know started “grinding” with her from behind. Other students in the discussion agreed with her and said it is not uncommon. They explained to us no one asks permission before “grinding” nor do they ask the other person if they want to dance.

We need to engage in conversations with our students about how to be respectful of each other.

We have been asked why we don’t just stop it. Try to picture our cafeteria, with 400 to 500 students in tight clusters of about 80 students. It is very difficult to get into the middle of the clusters to monitor every student who is dancing inappropriately.”

You can read the whole letter here.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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