School Administrators Under Fire for Protecting Female Modesty

Published January 1, 2008

School administrators nationwide are in a quandary about how to deal with the new freak dancing–or “juking”–craze going on at high school dances and proms.

The Wall Street Journal devoted an article in mid-November to the way the issue is tearing apart the Dallas suburb of Argyle, Texas. And last September, Evanston Township High School in Illinois issued fliers before its homecoming dance admonishing students that “salacious and inappropriate dancing” was outlawed. At Naperville North High, also in the Chicago suburbs, the dance tickets outlawed “sexually explicit and front to back dancing.”

School principals have deemed juking to be “simulated sex,” and they worry about modern cultural norms that encourage young girls to compete for boys’ approval and acceptance with such self-demeaning behavior. They argue the hip-hop culture has scuttled chastity and female self-esteem in one cool swoop.

Harming Mental Health

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), over-sexualized images of young women are rampant in all forms of media today, and “pimp chic” culture is harmful to girls’ mental and physical health, sexual development, body image, and scholastic achievement.

The late Dame Anita Lucia Roddick–founder of the Body Shop cosmetic company in England and a social activist in her own right–excoriated female entertainers who serve as role models for America’s youth for capitulating to mainstream culture’s pimp chic. She cautioned consumers about the effects of marketing “sharp-suited men with scowls, skimpily clad women looking up to them with awe, flashy cars, and lots of bling-bling” to impressionable kids.

In Argyle, parents’ opinions are split between those who vociferously oppose juke dancing in schools and those who evoke a more permissive stance that minimizes the “youthful indiscretions” of dirty dancing. Some parents even say school administrators are persecuting jukers for what the parents consider acceptable self-expression.

But teen pregnancy is a huge problem in Texas. According to the Department of State Health Services, one of every 11 18-year-old girls in Texas becomes pregnant, as do one of every 16 17-year-olds, one of every 27 16-year-olds, and one of every 58 15-year-olds.

Confused Parents

Black parents are clearly divided over the issue. Some get angry when “uptight” school administrators tell them their daughters’ sexually revealing prom dresses are unacceptable, or they complain about their sons being suspended for juking a girl’s rear end, and they applaud when other students encircle the kids to hide the “act” from the school’s “dance police.”

Other parents, outraged, are now homeschooling their adolescents or sending them to same-sex parochial schools as a way out of the social morass. It’s up to parents to decide what’s acceptable behavior for their children–and who should enforce it.

Real Values

Part of the problem here is the decline of academic standards. Student achievement and parental involvement are less important to some government school systems than socialization, and that means accepting highly dubious behavior in order to give students a chance to define a set of social mores in which they can feel comfortable.

As a result, rappers such as 50 Cent hold more sway with students than the civil rights icons of the 1960s, who extolled academic excellence as a way to elevate all Americans in a free-market economy.

This tag-team effort causes many parents to stand on the sidelines as another generation of girls is led to believe their self-esteem can be augmented by accepting their own degradation as normal. Those who disagree have to pull their children out of the public schools–while still paying taxes to support the institutions that are contributing to social decay.

Ultimately, of course, it’s up to parents to teach their children the lasting values of self-esteem and self-respect, while accentuating academic excellence as the path to the wonderful opportunities available to everyone not named Beyoncé or Britney.

But the schools certainly shouldn’t work against the process, especially while taking people’s tax money.

After all, these children are worth substantially more than the 50 Cent culture in which they are mired.

Ralph Conner ([email protected]) is The Heartland Institute’s local legislation manager and an advisor to The New Coalition for Economic and Social Change.