Department: Philly Teens Are Dancing Dirty … at School

Forget the gyrating pelvis and the Hustle and crowd-surfing and leaving room for the Holy Ghost. Suburban Philly kids today are getting way more physical at school dances — and administrators can’t stop them


You’d think school officials would have given up the fight by now, but no. Their latest tactic is a contract. Yes, a contract, stipulating everything a student shall not do. Penncrest High School sent contracts home a couple years ago, followed by Radnor. Then Conestoga High School went one better: For the 2009 homecoming dance at this tony public high school on the western Main Line, the prohibitions were printed on the ticket itself and included this caveat:

While a listing of all dances is not possible, the following is a list that serves as a guide: freaking, dirty dancing, crotch-to-crotch, grinding, moshing, slamming, sandwich dancing, etc.

I picture some principal staying up all night finding those words on the Internet.

Last October the Conestoga student newspaper, The Spoke, ran a front-page story covering the issue. It quoted everyone from teachers and chaperones — who complained that not only is dirty dancing now the norm, but it’s getting dirtier every year — to a student who said, “It’s kind of pointless to even put the rules on the ticket, because no one follows them.” The writers, Liz Bravacos and Laura Weiss, even found a student willing to be uncool and admit that she wouldn’t go to homecoming because she doesn’t want some guy grinding on her.

At Conestoga’s homecoming a week later, there were more lights on — and a ladder. The administration actually stationed a security guard atop a folding ladder at the edge of the dance floor. All the ambience of a dance at Auschwitz!

Maybe the Quakers are getting it right. “Our philosophy is not to dictate from above,” says Pippa Porter Rex, associate dean for community life and student leadership at George School in Newtown. So instead of handing out a contract, she held several meetings with students in the weeks prior to the school’s winter formal on December 11. A consensus emerged, and the student leaders who sponsored the dance made an amusing two-minute video summing up the guidelines for, well, appropriate grinding. “I told the students, ‘You can get freaky, but you can’t get freaky-deaky,’” Rex says. “And they knew how far to take it.”

One student was pleased with the result. She e-mailed me: “There was less unwelcome grinding than my friends and I had experienced at a dance earlier in the year, and it was also generally less explicit.”