11.20.2006

Redefining 'Killjoy' at Fayetteville Manlius High School

Syracuse Post-Standard coverage of a decision by Fayetteville-Manlius High School principal James Chupila to cancel a December 2nd dance to prevent the "grinding" or "freak dancing" that characterized the Homecoming event has been picked up by a variety of other news outlets, from Buffalo to NYC, from Newsvine to Fleshbot.*

Concern has erupted over the appropriateness of sexualized dancing at school events. I certainly don't blame parents for their concern, nor do I think Chupila's decision was out and out wrong. While in the short term it might prevent some brief clothed contact between naughty bits in a public setting, there are larger and longer-term implications.

Firstly, Chupila, also known as Chupa Chup, is going to have his hands full when it comes to FM's big fundraising event, Dance Marathon on March 3rd. The 12 hour event raises money for Camp Good Days and Special Times. That's right: 12 hours of dancing to top 40 dance hits, a full half-a-day's potential for grinding. Will a protective and Puritanical impulse to prevent what might go wrong pull the plug on one of the schools most community-building and altruistic events?

Regular readers are probably aware that though I currently live in the Hudson Valley, I'm from Fayetteville, outside of Syracuse. I graduated from Fayetteville-Manlius High School and was in school during the Water Balloon Incident of 2000. At the end of the school year, it was customary for water balloon fights to break out in the school parking lot. The year before, some of the balloons were filled with liquids other than water, and thus the FM administration made it clear that no one would be allowed to possess them. This of course made students more determined - when the water balloon fight began, a staggering number of state and local police officers were called, nightsticks and riot control tactics were employed, and dozens of students were arrested. Ill-will was generated, and the potential for irreverent fun was smashed like so many water balloons.

The topic of restriction of free expression/protecting students from their own hormones/monitoring what is done on school property is certainly an incendiary issue, one that will probably always be debated as cases like these arrise, has no easy resolution, and of course, is not exclusive to Upstate New York.

I recognize and sympathize with the difficult position that issues of student sexuality place upon educators. However, I would encourage people to think very carefully about how we treat the youth that we hope will become our Upstate future. While the duty of the school is to protect its students, micromanaging their lives in every way does everyone a disservice and sucks the the value out of what should be a time when students are learning important life lessons as well as academic ones. Overprotecting people leaves them either a) unprepared for what will happen when the protection is no longer there, or b) resentful and more likely to subvert authority in some other, probably more extreme, way. In a place striving to be more youth-friendly, I think it's unwise to infantilize high school students.

Posted by Natalie

Check out some cross talk on the Syracuse Post-Standard Forums here and here, and peruse the FM Code of Conduct, if you're interested, and if you're still interested, you can read this Manlius lawyer's take.

* Fleshbot is totally NOT SAFE FOR WORK

2 comments:

Dave Guhin said...

1970 FM Grad here.

Good to see they still nickname the principal.

How would Platt Wheeler have handled it.

We didnt have water balloon fights in 1970 so when did the tradition start?

We had keg parties. and Seniors would mess with Mr.Lewis' Morgan and paint the water tower, which I see is gone from Satellite photos.

Oh well 37 years is a long time.

Also looking for Kathy (Wiegand) Taylor and Jim Owens to say hi.

I believe they were both FM teachers until recently.

They grad in 1969 with my brothers class.

I grad with their sisters.

k said...

yeah, i go there and '09's dance marathon was a big grinding party. Everybody does it and it is not something to take seriously. It is very casual, harmless fun. Chaperones overreact and clutch their hearts, wishing for the days when it was a scandal if girls showed their ankles.