BHS dance policy to get a nice new makeover

The Bainbridge High School dance policy is undergoing some changes.

At a BHS Parent Teacher Student Organization meeting Wednesday, Principal Brent Peterson said the concerns were brought up by parents and students last spring when some didn’t feel comfortable about what was going on at school dances.

Peterson said the school even had to cancel a couple of dances last year because it didn’t think things were progressing in that area.

“On one level, it’s an age-old dilemma, I suspect, that the adults in a situation like this are always fretting and fussing about the behaviors kids exhibit,” he said.

“On the other hand, the reason we’re taking the issue seriously [is] that not only parents have expressed concerns, but we’ve had kids say, ‘I don’t really like what goes on at dances,’ or ‘I don’t go to dances because I don’t feel comfortable.’”

Peterson identified four issues that they were working on to help improve the environment for dances: the selection of music, the problem of ‘grinding’ at dances, the days of dances and how many to hold in a school year.

Another topic that came up was the day the dances were being held. Bainbridge, like many schools, has three formal dances: Homecoming in the fall, Tolo in the winter and prom in the spring. Peterson said the school decided to move the dances to Friday instead of Saturday a few years ago, but found the costs for the kids had risen since they made it a two-day event. They may move them back to Saturdays.

Another issue was how many dances should be held in a year. The Seattle School District only allows schools to hold other dances aside from the three major ones with its permission The number of dances has varied over the years, but Peterson has found its at the less formal dances where problems have occurred.

He said a change that may come due to feedback from kids is to implement a modified dress code at the lesser known dances. The research that was gathered showed that dances that were made an event were less likely to have problems.

Other issues that were brought up were The Commons, where dances were held and if there would be a backlash against any changes.

Peterson said they plan to move the dances from the Commons to the gym where there is more room to setup and post decorations along with having a bigger dance area, but they need to find a surface so they can prevent damage to the gym floor.

Peterson said they’ve reached out to several schools about what they’ve done in response to concerns about the issue of school dances.

The replies ranged on both sides of the spectrum – from some schools with no dances, saying they were not central to the school’s mission, to other schools saying they had no problems at their dances.

Some members of the Site Council also attended a dance earlier in the month to observe what went on and then reported their findings at the next meeting.

“The good news is that there is an awareness on the part of parents and students and staff at Bainbridge High School that we’ve got some work to do,” Peterson said. “We don’t want to get into the business of pages of dance rules that somebody’s got to figure out how to enforce – that doesn’t make any sense. We do think that dances, if done well and appropriately, can add value to the school community. We don’t want to go to the other extreme and get out of the dance business altogether.”

While there may be decreased attendance with any changes made, both Peterson and some parents shared stories about attendance increasing at the dances over time due to students feeling more comfortable being at the dance.

“We know it’s not the No. 1 item on our agenda, but it’s important that we are attentive to it,” he said. “We want parents and kids to feel comfortable to come to a dance.”

Depending on scheduling – many of the dances are booked a year in advance to ensure space availablity – Peterson said any changes made will be done by next fall.

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