New committee will create dress code, behavior rules due to suggestive dancing

ASHLAND — An increase in sexually suggestive dancing at school events has led Ashland High School leadership students and Principal Michelle Zundel to form a committee to create dress code and behavior guidelines, a student representative told the School Board last week.

"There's a lot of concern among parents, because dancing has changed styles," said senior Hannah Ewing, a member of the school's leadership group. "It's gotten pretty bad."

Zundel plans to meet with leadership and honors students, as well as their teachers, in the coming weeks to craft a set of guidelines for school dances. Then the committee will share the proposed guidelines with students and parents to get feedback, she said.

"I think we need to teach our kids how to dance, and create healthy guidelines and enforce them, and still have a whole lot of fun at school dances," she said.

In addition to creating guidelines, the school plans to continue offering dance lessons before school dances and at lunch on Fridays through the Ballroom Dancing Club, Zundel said.

Zundel said inappropriate dancing is something high schools nationwide are dealing with.

"It's on the minds of high school students, administrators and parents across the country," she said. "I've been talking to folks at Grants Pass and South Medford high schools, and I think it is of concern to everybody involved in high school education."

Ewing said about two- or three-dozen students have begun wearing skimpy outfits to school dances and then dancing "extremely close together" in a style known as grinding.

"It's kind of been gradually coming on, but this year it really started to get out of hand," she said. "A lot of the concern is about the style of dancing, the closeness of it, person to person. Also, it's completely different if you dance like that fully clothed compared to wearing next to nothing."

The behavior makes some parent chaperones and students uncomfortable, and has led some parents to exclude their children from dances, she said.

With the new guidelines, chaperones at the dances will have a clearer idea of what is inappropriate, Ewing said.

"Everyone has their own idea about what's appropriate and what's not," she said. "This way they'll know when to step in."

Students who don't follow the guidelines will likely be given one warning and then excluded from the dances if they break the rules again, Ewing said.

Between 200 and 700 students typically attend dances, and there are usually at least a dozen chaperones, she said.

Ewing said the school received a number of complaints from chaperones at the Black and White Dance in December.

"I think that was kind of the breaking point, where chaperones started to get pretty uncomfortable," she said.

The risqué dancing has even cause some students to steer clear of the dances, Ewing said.

"We have a lot of good dancers at school that won't go to dances because they just don't feel comfortable," she said. "I think that everyone should feel comfortable at a school function."

Ewing said some students have been upset to learn that the school is creating dancing guidelines, but she encouraged them to reserve judgment until the guidelines are created.

"I think my message to students is keep an open mind," she said. "We're trying to do our best to mediate between students and parents because we want everyone to feel like their needs are met. Just give it a try and don't go into it with a negative attitude."

Hannah Guzik is a reporter for the Daily Tidings.

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