'Inappropriate' dance moves lead to calls for student lessons in Peters

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In a discussion that reminded one member of the movie "Footloose," members of the Peters Township school board on Tuesday discussed whether to ask students to take dancing lessons from a local company due to "twerking" and other dance moves some consider inappropriate displayed at a high school dance recently.

"This would do away with the problems at dances and teach those social graces which seem to be lost today," said school board member Bill Merrell, who chaperoned a dance Feb. 8, and suggested the students take Saturday lessons from a local Arthur Murray Dance Studio.

Peters police were called twice to the dance, handing out underage drinking citations to three teens, and many teens at the dance left more than an hour early after adults warned them to stop dancing inappropriately.

Mr. Merrell said he discussed the incident with some student leaders at a parent/teacher/student meeting, and students expressed an interest in learning how to dance, he said.

Mr. Merrell said the students told him they didn't know how to dance and got their moves from MTV.

He asked administrators to survey students to see if they would be interested in dance classes. Mr. Merrell said he envisioned several 45-minute classes on weekends for students who are interested.

But, several other members strongly objected, saying that what Mr. Merrell considers inappropriate is just a generational difference.

"I think this is a chapter from the 'Footloose' movie," said member Ron Dunleavy. "I don't think it's our job to do that."

The 1984 film is about a teenage boy who moves from Boston to a small southern town and protests the town's ban against dancing.

"In theory, it's a great idea," said member Lynn Erenberg, who said she wasn't sure lessons would solve the issue.

Ms. Erenberg and others were upset that hundreds of students left the dance early after being cautioned by adults, though district spokeswoman Shelly Belcher said parents were informed that the students were leaving via automated phone calls.

"I do think we seriously have to think about this," said director Sue Smith. There was no discussion about who would pay for the dance lessons.

Administrators said they would poll the students to gauge interest in dance classes and take the issue up again later. Superintendent Jeannine French said there could be multiple solutions.

"We need to be nimble in this regard," she said.

■ Also Tuesday, Ms. Smith suggested the district consider installing air quality monitors before and during gas well drilling in the Marcellus Shale, through a program sponsored by the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, which is offering the monitors through a grant with Carnegie Mellon University.

There will be no drilling on district property, but there is likely to be drilling beginning in parts of the township within the next two years.

"As guardians of our students, we should be able to test the air quality in our buildings," she said.

The board's building and grounds committee is expected to take the issue up.

The board also approved:

■ New graduation requirements that remove a requirement for speech and online classes beginning with the class of 2017. Those students also won't be required to participate in graduation projects, a requirement also recently lifted by the state. Members voted 9-0 to approve the new guidelines except eliminating speech class. In a separate vote, that motion passed by a 6-3 vote, with members Lisa Anderson, Mr. Merrell and Jamision Hardy opposed to eliminating speech requirements.

 ■ Extending the PSSA tutoring program at McMurray Elementary School for two weeks, through March 28, with 11 teachers approved as tutors.

■ A motion to solicit proposals for an energy audit that would propose energy conservation measures.

■ An advertisement for bids to replace two school buses. The buses cost an estimated $85,000 a piece.

■ Several new courses, including fine arts, Algebra IB, and Keystone Biology in the high school, and Computer Applications 7, Vocal Music 7 and 8 in the middle school.

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