By Melanie Nesteruk
For years, Andover High School has held dances where students could get together, dance, and have a good time. Recently, the dances have come under scrutiny from parents and administration for alleged drug and alcohol use, as well dancing deemed inappropriate.
Parents have expressed concern about the grinding and other dancing that has become popular among Andover teens. Most, if not all, students are familiar with the term grinding and aware of how prevalent the practice is at school dances. Rebekah Miner, parent of a freshman, sees grinding as being a “threatening and potentially violent form of dancing” and “sexually explicit.”
As of now, there are no clear rules on what type of dancing is considered inappropriate, although chaperones are told to step in when the dancing goes “too far.” Members of the administration, including Dr. Sharkey and Ms. Jordan, plus about 13 or more teachers chaperone each dance. Some parents, however, think that it is not enough for chaperones to just be there and insist that they need to play a more active role in monitoring the dances. “By allowing kids to dance this way in a public space, the adults in attendance are condoning the behavior,” said Miner. “They are sending the message to kids that this is normal and acceptable behavior.”
She continued, “I know that dancing can become ‘intimate,’ but when it crosses the line to ‘dry humping’ it should be stopped.”
Members of Student Government argue that parents are looking at these dances all the wrong way. “It’s more socially driven, not sexually,” said one member, responding to parents’ concerns. “As peers, we respect each other a lot.” Other students believe that the dancing is harmless, and merely a way for them to enjoy the music and have fun at dances.
Christine Farzan, a representative from student government, said that one of their main concerns is the “civil rights of the students.” Student Government talked to Dr. Sharkey recently, looking for a solution where all students would feel comfortable at the dances. Since many of the concerns regarding the dances seemed to come from freshman parents, one of the alternatives suggested was having seperate dances for underclassmen or freshmen.
Due to the large age gap between freshman and seniors, there are bound to be disagreements on how the dances are run, and what is considered appropriate or not. However, it’s not just the dancing that is causing the problem; parents, students, and administration agree that the amount of alcohol and drug use is also troubling.
“I wish we were at a place where we didn’t feel we needed drugs or alcohol to have fun,” said AHS senior Carissa Johnson. After attending several school dances as an underclassman, she stopped going. “My general impression of high school dances are that they aren’t fun, they’re kindof gross, and they aren’t what they could or should be,” added Johnson.
Andover High School holds about four dances a year, with around 400-500 kids in attendance. The dances have strict rules concerning alcohol or drug use. Any student who is caught drinking faces three days of suspension and two days of outside counseling. Despite the punishments, two to four kids get suspended per dance, according to Ms. Jordan. Dr. Sharkey acknowledges that “there is risk-taking going on” and has taken further steps to dissuade students from this type of harmful behavior. Students are used to seeing Andover police officers at the dances, but what they may not be used to is being asked to take a breathalyzer test. Recent changes now state that students attending dances may be tested randomly for alcohol use.
Dr. Sharkey calls for a “conversation to arrive at a common ground.” He admits there is still work to be done in improving the dances, and says that a solution needs to hinge on cooperation between students and the administration.