Real-life "Footloose" controversy plays out in Yorktown

The annual Sadie Hawkins Dance is Saturday, Nov. 19, but around 100 students will not be there because they aren't allowed to dance the way they want to.

Yorktown, Ind.

It is just like the problem Ren McCormack, Kevin Bacon's character in the movie "Footloose" had.  Ren's form of dancing was not acceptable, it was outlawed and students in the school rebelled.  Now to real life, where it is playing out at Yorktown High School.

The annual Sadie Hawkins Dance is Saturday, Nov. 19, but around 100 students will not be there because they aren't allowed to dance the way they want to. The school has banned grinding.

"It grinded our gears," said Jason Brown, a Yorktown senior who helped organize a dance outside of the school.

School Superintendent Jennifer McCormick said many forms of dancing have their place at Yorktown High but grinding does not.

"We are not a club, we are a high school," said Superintendant Jennifer McCormick.  "We have kids who are 14 years old up to 19 or 20 years old. It is our responsibility to set the expectations of what is appropriate."

She admits, the dancing issue has caused a rift in this close-knit town.

"We have one pocket, or one facet that is very much opposed to what we're trying to accomplish, another one that is very much in support," said McCormick. "We will work through this."

The students who organized the alternative dance said the school overreacted.

"They split us up, split boys and girls up, and had meetings with us, like elementary school again, and they showed us how to dance properly," said Matt Murray, one of the students who organized the alternative dance. "They said a foot to two feet apart is where we had to be."

In response, Murray and his friends took to Twitter to gauge interest in an "AntiSadies" dance. More than a 100 students soon committed to buying tickets, so the boys worked with their parents to rent the Carolina Room in Muncie. One of the students will DJ and about 20 parents will chaperone.

"We're not going to let it get like out of hand or anything obviously," said Jason Brown, another student organizer. "There's going to be chaperones and police. I mean, it's not going to be like crazy up in there."

They said the police and parental presence is to show the school that having a fun, safe and legal dance for teens, and that it isn't dependent upon how close you dance or what you sign.

"They tell us to be more mature, but then they're giving us all these rules, making us sign contracts like they don't trust us, like we're in fifth grade," Murray said.

Tom Engle is a 1983 graduate from Yorktown High School. He said can not believe dancing is causing this much stress.

"As long as they're not dancing nude who cares," said Engle.  "They're kids, let them be kids."

Administrators said kids are getting hurt and the emotional pain often carries over into the classroom.

"It does create drama and conflict among the kids because of jealousies and arguments and what is appropriate and not appropriate and whose boyfriend and whose girlfriend is involved," said Yorktown High School Principal Kelly Wittman.  "We want kids to come to the dance to have a blast, but they need to respect each other and respect themselves."

Some support the students who will not be taking part in Saturday’s dance, others are standing up for the school. Nearly $400 in cash and gift cards have been donated, to be handed out as door prizes for the kids that do attend the dance at the school.





Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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