This isn't 'Footloose'

Kids these days! Now we hear, of all things, that they're dancing in a provocative way. Maybe we should call Kevin Bacon and the good people of Bomont to see if the movie "Footloose" has any tips to help us through this crisis.

Or not. It's a too-easy answer to draw the comparison between the uptight fictional town of Bomont and real school administrators who are cracking down on sexually suggestive dancing at school homecomings and proms. But as is often the case, the too-easy answer is the wrong answer.

While the "Footloose" movie that boosted Bacon to fame was about adults trying to stop kids from dancing, it's a stretch to compare it with current efforts to impose some rules at school dances. Locally and nationally, schools are trying to stop "grinding," a dance that essentially involves the male member of a pair approaching the female from behind and simulating a sexual encounter.

So while "Footloose" depicted a town that was imposing puritanical rules on kids — dancing is evil — the schools are merely trying to require that students at school-sponsored dances follow some modest societal norms.

Locally, that has led to everything from student expulsions from dances at North Medford High School to a decision in Grants Pass to cancel all school dances.

For those who argue that the distance between puritanical rules and social norms is narrow, we have to say, "Oh, come on, be serious." This is not a rule prohibiting dancing, it's a rule prohibiting what amounts to lewd and offensive behavior.

Those who want to conduct themselves that way can do so at a private party or club, but the school is absolutely within its rights to establish boundaries. Beyond the adults who may be offended are the many students who do not particularly want to watch self-indulgent peers display their look-at-me lack of class on the dance floor.

A school dance, remember, can include everyone from 18-year-olds who may be students in name but are adults in every other way to 14-year-olds who are anything but adults. A Grants Pass administrator said the district put an end to school dances in part because boys were coming up behind girls uninvited and grinding — mimicking a sex act. At some point, that behavior becomes not only distasteful, but also illegal.

Part of a school's job is to prepare students for real life (after all, too many parents obviously have abdicated that role). Yes, you can act like an ass in real life, but those who do will likely not end up with the life they hoped for. There are unfair boundaries in real life — discrimination of all sorts — and then there are boundaries that reasonable people can agree are, well, reasonable. And, yes, it is reasonable that students can expect to attend a school dance without being subjected to offensive acts or language.

So, students, dance your hearts out. If you've got more than that in mind, that's your business, but take it somewhere else.

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