JDHS sets new rules for 'jive'

High school reminds students not to go too low while dancing

Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2008

On display in the office at Juneau-Douglas High School are two hand-made protractors about 3 feet wide. They have cutouts of the school's initials and have markings at 45-degree angles.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

The protractors are to serve as a reminder of a new rule at high school dances in Juneau: "Past 45 and no jive."

The rule means that a girl who is dancing with her back to a boy can't bend over at more than a 45-degree angle, and is aimed at curbing some of the more suggestive dancing that's occurred at dances.

"It's very sexual looking," Principal Bernie Sorenson said, describing some of dance moves she seen, which are described as "freaking" or "grinding." "It's provocative."

Sorenson said the school's old dance dictum of "Face to face, keep some space" was not working. Students would converge in the middle of the dance floor en masse to form a collective unit so dense that teachers and chaperones couldn't see or stop any offending dancing, according to Sorenson and others.

And when administrators tried to send a message that sexually charged dancing wouldn't be tolerated by kicking a large number of students out of dances last year, students still didn't stop, Sorenson said.

"We never saw any changes," Sorenson said.

So last year Sorenson tasked the student council with coming up with a solution, which includes the protractors and the 45-degree angle rule.

Other new rules include the swimsuit rule, which means that students can't touch other students anywhere a swimsuit would rest; a rule that students must stay on their feet and can't lie on the floor; and another rule that students can't take off any of their "primary" clothing, according to student council member Alex Botelho, who was part of the team that came up with the new rules.

Botelho said the new rules were needed so that parents, teachers and students had a clear idea of what kind of dancing would be tolerated, and what kind was over the line.

"Our (old) rules weren't clearly stated, so it was very subjective for the chaperones as to what they could catch kids doing and throw them out for," Botelho said.

Botelho said the new rules helped make the school's last dance, a Halloween dance, more enjoyable. He said the dance floor was less congested and there was less of the "extreme" types of dancing that occurred before.

For now, Sorenson said she's OK with the new rules, but she said administrators are still struggling with limits of what kind of dancing is appropriate. She said there's a tension between understanding that there is a generational gap between students and their parents and teachers in what constitutes acceptable dancing and understanding that some dance moves are clearly inappropriate for a high school dance.

The student council president, Annie Bartholomew, said some students feel passionately that they have the right to freak or grind and the new rules are a necessary compromise.

"(Parents) need to understand that this is the way students dance and it's not going to change," Bartholomew said. "If there's a way to measure it, and let students know clearly what is within bounds and what is out of bounds, I think that's what our school needs, and that's what we're working towards."

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at 523-2268 or alan.suderman@juneauempire.com.

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