Skyline High School dances resume after student ‘problem solving’

September 27, 2011

By Tom Corrigan

In an email newsletter sent to the families of Skyline High School students, school officials said they had concerns about what they considered inappropriate behavior at school dances.

With that in mind, the letter also states school leaders had “put a hold on dances while the Associated Student Body and the student body did some problem solving.”

The school’s next dance would be the annual homecoming slated for Oct. 14. But the school newsletter claims that event was never definitively cancelled.

Not attributed to any specific person, the letter states “the media and their sources were not accurate in reporting homecoming as cancelled. Homecoming is on, but with a few new approaches.”

Requests for comments from Skyline Principal Lisa Hechtman and district officials were forwarded to district Executive Director of Communications Sara Niegowski.

According to Niegowski, at a recent Skyline dance, Hechtman observed what she felt was inappropriate sexual behavior, such as students grinding against each other. The newsletter said much the same.

“Dances are a part of school culture, yes, but some of the dancing that was happening should in no way, shape or form be a part of our school,” the email read.

“She’s been battling that for several years,” Niegowski added.

Niegowski said that in the past Hechtman had talked with the students taking part in inappropriate behavior, had asked them to leave events and contacted their parents. But none of those measures worked to Hechtman’s satisfaction.

While she is concerned about behavior, Hechtman also wants students to come up with ways to increase attendance at the dances. Many Skyline dances do not seem to attract much attention from students, Niegowski said, adding that it has become difficult to find volunteer adult chaperones. Still, the newsletter makes clear one new approach will be an increase in the number of chaperones at each dance and makes a pitch for volunteers.

Released last week, the email asks the school community to watch future newsletters for more about how Skyline will handle subsequent dances.

While some changes may be in the offing, Skyline’s current online student handbook lists about six rules governing student behavior at dances. Separate rules cover student dress and personal displays of affection. The dance rules state that “freak dancing” will not be allowed.

Such dancing is defined as “any or all dancing that is found to be sexually suggestive in any way.” The handbook emphasizes the last five words of the definition by putting them in quotes and italics.

Some examples of unacceptable behavior include inappropriate touching, according to the handbook. Removal of shirts or other required dress is not allowed. Rules prohibit lap dancing as well. The handbook states that dance chaperones have the right to intervene if behavior is thought to be inappropriate.

In general, according to the handbook, excessive displays of affection can include prolonged embracing or kissing. Such displays are not allowed at the school, during school events or on school buses.

An attempt to reach Skyline student leaders through Niegowski was unsuccessful.

After some discussion among parent leaders, Deb Smith, copresident of the Skyline PTSA, said it was decided to give students the opportunity to come up with solutions before any adults weighed in on the issue publicly.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or tcorrigan@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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