School tries to eliminate 'grinding' from Mt. Lebanon dances

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School officials in Mt. Lebanon have tried everything to stop it: adding teacher chaperones, bulking up law enforcement, even playing songs from an era when this salacious pas de deux was a faux pas.

But the sexually suggestive moves continued at the high school dances, and now "grinding" has been banned.

"It's just not appropriate," said Mt. Lebanon High School principal Brian R. McFeeley. "It would be behavior we wouldn't condone in the hallways and at other events."

Grinding is popular both in nightclubs and at school dances, where many parent and teacher chaperones are uncomfortable with the suggestive nature of the dance moves.

"Its form generally includes a male student rubbing up behind a female partner while both make a gyrating motion from side to side," Mr. McFeeley wrote in a Friday letter to parents.

School officials consider the ban the first step toward creating a safer and more appropriate environment. Mr. McFeeley underscored a second "major issue" in his letter to parents: At five of the last six high school dances, some students have violated the district's drug and alcohol policy.

The day of the homecoming dance Oct. 13, six students were cited for underage drinking, including a 16-year-old so intoxicated that a police officer had to carry her off the dance floor, said Lt. Aaron Lauth of the Mt. Lebanon Police Department.

Paramedics took the girl to St. Clair Hospital, then Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Lt. Lauth had no update on her condition.

The six students' blood alcohol levels ranged from 0.065 to 0.27, he said.

"So you're not talking about a couple of drinks. You're talking about kids that are drinking to levels of intoxication," he said.

Some students are binge drinking prior to the event, so they feel the full effects when entering the dance floor, Mr. McFeeley said.

The principal's Friday morning announcement wrongly made the grinding issue of chief concern, according to some students.

"I was mad because I think it's stupid that they're focusing on how we dance rather than on the drug and alcohol issues," junior Paulee Manich said.

Mr. McFeeley said officials are taking the drinking problem seriously. Because the no-grinding policy was announced first, he said, students may not realize a team of parents, faculty and administrators are discussing ways to combat drug and alcohol violations at school dances.

"Everything is going to be on the table over the next several months," he said.

Some schools require students to take Breathalyzer tests before entering a school dance, a concept Lt. Lauth said has been discussed in Mt. Lebanon.

"I'm not going to completely rule that out," he said. "That is a possibility."

Juniors Kaya Walter and Sarah Williams described dances in which the most offensive grinding occurs between students gathered in the middle of the dance floor. Others, many of whom still grind, dance toward the outer edges, they said.

Sarah said students should find an alternate form of dancing but doubts they will heed the new policy.

"Nothing is going to stop people from doing it," she said. "They did add slow music, and people progressed to grind to the slow music."

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Molly Born: or 412-263-1944. Liz Navratil contributed.


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