Sexual assault and homecoming dances.

Face to face – and leave some space.

Our then 14 year-old daughter came home crying from her school’s sanctioned homecoming dance last year. She has decided to skip it this year unless something is done to make these dances less pornographic.

Homecoming, like many antiquated events we seem to accept and celebrate without question, is the tradition of welcoming back alumni. Homecoming typically includes various activities for students and alumni, which in most cases is limited to a football game and a drink special at a local haunt. Most high schools host a special homecoming dance in the autumn. Ironically, no one is really coming home to attend this dance, since alumni is typically prohibited from attending.

Knowing darn well what adolescent children are capable of during these largely unsupervised events, I attempted to circumnavigate the question in advance with an alternative family outing at exactly the same time the homecoming dance was scheduled to occur. However, something came up and my plan was foiled. Our daughter begged and pleaded to go to her school’s homecoming dance. “All her friends” were going, which was a grand total of four. The stigma of being the only friend who didn’t go to homecoming might prove to be ruinous. Nonetheless, her grades were excellent and she is a very well behaved child, so Mom and I caved.

There is a considerable financial investment involved in these school dances. By the time you splurge for a dress, matching shoes (that are worn for roughly five minutes then cast in a corner), tickets, and of course, a hair stylist and obligatory mani-pedi, you could spend well over the full price of a new iPhone, which is a much better investment in my opinion. We added to the family’s revolving debt load and followed the flock. Although she tried on a few dresses that were a bit too revealing, she opted for a more traditional dress that fell well below her knees.

Homecoming night came. Our local school rents a larger facility that can handle the large turnout. Mom and I perused the crowd as we searched for a parking spot. Apparently, much has changed since the days of my homecoming dances. Now, we’re fairly open-minded folks. But some of these girls were wearing dresses that were so short they might be considered obscene. Neither of our mommas would have let us out of the house with a dress like those. We questioned the sanity and judgment of some of the parents who were dropping their scantily dressed babies off at the curb. We walked our daughter up to the door. She found her crowd, gave mom a hug, and ran off giggling. Mom and I went home.

A few hours later, we got a phone call. “Mom, can you come get me?” She sounded distressed. We arrived to find her standing outside, alone, and in tears. We went to a diner and had a long chat about what happened.

First of all, any high school dance must have active chaperones. A chaperone’s function is to ensure the safety and orderly behavior of the participants. According to our daughter’s account, no one seemed to intervene in anything, regardless of what they saw on the dance floor.

Secondly, the young DJ opted to play the uncensored versions of the awful hip-hop songs all her classmates were into. She had never heard these versions, since we monitor what she downloads. There is a reason why music is labelled “offensive lyrics.” When you’re grown, you can listen to an infant banging pans together overlaid with some idiot spewing poorly written poetic profanities if you like. But give the kids a chance to develop a choice.

Finally, the latest trend in dancing is something known as “grinding.” As a former DJ, I can attest that it’s been around for a few decades. For the uninitiated, a boy takes his place behind a girl, with or without her permission, and puts his hands on her pelvic area. He then pulls her derriere directly to the front of his reproductive area, physically rubbing on her backside with a youthful vigor to the beat of the awful rap song that’s currently playing. Let that image settle in for a moment.

I am not looking to make my hometown anything like Elmore City, Oklahoma. I’m all about children learning to explore the real world and becoming well-informed adults. It’s a mess out there, and if you shelter them too much, the culture shock could result in a devastating bout of depression. As a civilization, we’ve got to have some ground rules. The following common-sense suggestions may help.

 

If anyone is in attendance who is under the age of 18, curb the lyrics. Radio versions of all the popular hip-hop songs are readily available on iTunes and at Amazon. It’s the same stupid song with the same lousy drum machine. Fill in your own profanities.

Dresses that are too short are inviting the attention of the wrong crowd. Free-spirited mothers need to recalibrate your judgment unless you want to be premature grandparents. Think about this, Mom — that $250,000 it costs to raise a child will most likely fall upon you.

The “grinding” thing is the main challenge. Since there is inappropriate physical contact with a child, the practice of grinding is technically sexual assault in most jurisdictions, and can be prosecuted by the state attorney whether or not you or your child files charges. The last thing you want to do is wrangle in court over this type of case with an expensive attorney during a very public trial. News headlines will read “Sexual Assault” with “grinding” buried way beneath the fold. School administrators and chaperones may also be named in the suit.

We’ve copied this article and written an accompanying letter to our school’s new principal. Hopefully, he will have the wherewithal and courage to institute changes to make this year’s homecoming dance a safer and more appropriate event.

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