Students at two Maine high schools left recent homecoming dances in droves when they were told to stop “grinding,” sexually suggestive dancing that has administrators at both schools reconsidering recently adopted school dance policies.

Of the 600 to 700 students who attended Scarborough High School’s homecoming dance last Saturday, about half left early because chaperones wouldn’t let them “grind.” A week earlier, on Sept. 20, about one-third of the estimated 350 students at Gorham High School’s homecoming dance left early for the same reason.

The walkouts are the latest examples of dissent in Maine high schools over the popular dance form, which involves one dancer grinding his or her pelvic area against the buttocks of a partner.

Dancing without grinding is “lame,” said Jacob Kacer, a Scarborough junior who walked out of Saturday’s dance in the high school’s crowded cafeteria.

“Everybody was grinding,” Kacer said Tuesday. “Then some of the teachers came through and talked to us about dancing the right way. I thought it was stupid, so I left.”

Grinding has become an issue in recent years at high schools in cities and towns across Maine, including Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Wells, Oakland, Albion and Windham.

But suggestive dancing has concerned school officials for decades. Elvis shocked older adults with his swiveling hips in the 1950s. Flappers raised eyebrows with their shorter skirts and high kicks in the Roaring Twenties.

“It changes from generation to generation, but there are always limits to what’s considered appropriate at school,” said Dick Durost, executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association.

Kacer said he signed but didn’t read the “Dance/Prom Expectations Form” that was required to attend the 7 to 10 p.m. event under a dance policy instituted last spring. Still, Kacer said, he knew that the policy specifically prohibits grinding and other “inappropriate dancing.”

“We have a responsibility to ensure that a school event is appropriate for all students,” Scarborough High Principal David Creech said Tuesday.

“We want students to celebrate life and have fun,” Creech continued. “But this is a school. It’s not a club or a party on a beach. If students aren’t willing to compromise and work with us, we’ll have to consider whether we have dances.”

Creech said many students were asked to stop grinding and warned that, if they continued, they would be removed from the dance and their parents would be called to pick them up. Students who had been grinding either stopped or left the dance, he said.

In keeping with the school’s dance policy, students were randomly selected for blood-alcohol breath testing upon entering and during the dance. No students failed the test, Creech said.

The bulk of students left the Scarborough dance between 8 and 8:30 p.m. and drew police attention as they congregated in other public places. Most were older students who had their own transportation.

Creech sent an email to high school parents at 9:23 p.m. letting them know that many students had left the dance. Police had informed him that some had gathered in Memorial Park, near the high school, but were dispersed because the park closes at sunset.

“We are not sure where most of them have gone and we want you to please make sure they have safely reached home for the night,” Creech wrote. “With so many students leaving so early, we thought it would be helpful if you knew where they were to ensure they are safe for the evening.”

Some students from the dance gathered in the parking lot at Ferry Beach, which is open until 11 p.m., said Deputy Police Chief David Grover. Around 9:40 p.m., a patrol officer warned them that they couldn’t play loud music and would be asked to leave if neighbors complained.

Just before 9 p.m., a Broadturn Road resident called the police department to say that a group of students from the dance had gathered on his property and that he would monitor them and would disperse them if neighbors complained.

Grover said no other incidents were reported Saturday night that were attributed to students from the dance.

Both Creech and Gorham High Principal Chris Record said managing student behavior at school dances has grown increasingly difficult as society’s expectations have evolved.

“Schools are not immune to what’s happening in the world,” Record said Tuesday. “Kids are inundated with sexual content. We try to provide a safe, fun environment. We cannot condone grinding.”

Grinding is prohibited at Gorham High dances under a policy that was developed last year by the school council, which has 10 students and 10 staff members. That policy is being reviewed in the wake of the homecoming walkout.

“We’re considering what’s going to happen here in the future,” Record said. “We’re trying not to do anything rash and do what’s best for the community.”

Both Record and Creech noted that they have lots of “great students,” many of whom participated in the recent School Spirit Challenge to collect money and food for the Good Shepherd Food Bank.

“We don’t want the negative to overshadow all the good that they do,” Creech said.

Still, Creech plans to meet with staff and student leaders to talk about what can be done about grinding.

“We want to empower students to be part of the process,” Creech said. “But we need to evaluate whether we should have these dances and how that can happen.”

 


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