Parents, school officials concerned about ‘freaking’ and ‘grinding’ at homecoming dance

Freaking. Grinding. Bumping. The Nasty. Whatever you call it, to many parents — and some students — it’s an uncomfortable thing to see at a school-sanctioned event, and it has become a new topic of debate on the PTSA listserv at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring following the annual homecoming dance.

Parents have been registering their concerns about the sexually explicit dance moves on display last month and questioning whether there is anything the school administration could do to make future events more G-rated — or at least PG-13. Modifying the hip-hop heavy playlist, perhaps? Holding separate events for those who don’t want to participate?

Sebastian Medina-Tayac, editor of the Silver Chips student newspaper, joined the discussion to ask for a little perspective. Grinding has little sexual meaning to most teens, he wrote. Rather, it’s the basic dancing style of their generation and it’s as prevalent at bar mitzvahs and house parties as it is at school dances.

“But hasn’t it always been this way?” he wrote. “Weren’t your (grand?)parents worried that Elvis was moving his hips too much? Isn’t grinding just the Charleston (also considered ‘lewd’ and ‘suggestive’ in the roaring ’20s) of the 21st century?”

Indeed, the history of teenagers making moves (or copping feels) on the dance floor is as long as administrators’ attempts to moderate the temperature in the room.

A decade ago, Montgomery Blair’s principal enlisted students to make an instructional video on dancing do’s and don’ts. “Arthur Murray it isn’t,” reported my colleague Nurith Aizenman in The Washington Post.

She also found many other administrative solutions for dirty dancing:

At Oakland Mills High School in Howard County, the principal released a page-long list of rules before the prom including no “grinding,” “doggy dancing” or “front piggy-backing.”

Also off limits: “hiking up skirts,” “hands on the floor” and any train of people “unless it’s a conga line.”

At Duke Ellington School of the Arts in the District, chaperones are handed flashlights and told to spotlight — literally — offending couples.

. . . Frederick Douglass High School in Upper Marlboro makes parents sign a pledge promising to pick their children up early if they are found dancing inappropriately. And at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, the deejay froze the freaking several times during a recent dance by playing the “Barney” theme song.

Such creative countermeasures are not limited to the Washington area. Gabriel Richard High School in Riverview, Mich., requires students to pass a quiz on proper dancing before going to the prom.

Puyallup High School near Tacoma, Wash., reportedly prohibits dancers from bending over “more than 45 degrees” — though chaperones are not equipped with protractors.

One other creative solution comes from Laura Sessions Stepp, author of “Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both”:

Some schools, before prom, used PE classes to teach swing dancing, the Electric Slide and line dancing in step with popular hip-hop songs. Students grumbled at first, according to news accounts. But on the big night, as long as freaking was also an occasional choice, many eventually bought into the idea of trying something different.

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in Northern Virginia.
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