More communication needed to enforce stricter dance policies

November 13, 2015 — by Eileen Toh

When the 300 or so students decked out with Peter Pan hats and carrying lightsabers filed into the already-packed Large Gym for the Homecoming dance on Oct. 17, something was already off. 

When the 300 or so students decked out with Peter Pan hats and carrying lightsabers filed into the already-packed Large Gym for the Homecoming dance on Oct. 17, something was already off.

Even though each administrator was equipped with a Breathalyzer and stood at the doors ready to check each attendee, the pungent smell of alcohol later wafted throughout the Large Gym. It was clear that some students had arrived at the dance already under the influence, and some of these students were caught later in the night.

The administration enforces a strict dance policy that is most often times successful. These days, most students dress appropriately at dances and a minimal amount of grinding occurs in the midst of student crowds.

But in order to mitigate other inappropriate student behaviors such as drinking, the dance security policy should be enforced even more tightly, and students should be informed of its guidelines even more clearly.

At the beginning of every school year, each of the four administrators gives a presentation on student conduct at school events in all students’ history classes.

Despite this strong effort to be clear, there are still students who blatantly disregard the policies, carelessly signing their names on student activities contracts and later violating these guidelines.

Students who are under the influence at dances may know that they will get into some trouble if caught, but they probably don’t know that according to the California Education Code, the penalty for a first offense is an up to 5-day suspension (or possible expulsion). Administrators may also prohibit these students from attending future dances or participating in extracurricular activities, including sports, in the school year.

Another visible symbol of tougher enforcement is having sheriff’s deputies at the dances. According to assistant principal Brian Thompson, the school requests school resource officers to attend the dances, but these deputies only attend whenever possible. The presence of uniformed officers — or perhaps even hired security guards in uniform — would serve as a reminder of the legal consequences of actions such as underage drinking.

In the past, the school had as many as eight or nine dances throughout the school year. Most of these dances, however, were taken away due to student drinking or inappropriate dancing, leaving current students with only a mere four dances (including Junior and Senior Prom).

If the policies were explained more clearly, more students would follow the rules. But this requires that the administration and student leadership communicate beforehand to agree upon methods of communication.

For instance, when this year’s Homecoming commissioners announced the rules for the week in the school Facebook group, they had not talked to the administrators about what the consequences for drinking at the dance would be. Therefore, they only said that “drinking or being under the influence is strictly prohibited,” perhaps leaving some students with the impression that drinking would merit a slight punishment.

To prevent these incidents from recurring, all of the necessary commissions, ASB and administrators should meet and create a list of talking points when it comes to rules and regulations for school dances, complete with the specific punishments or consequences when a student breaks them. The list of rules should then be presented or made public to all students, whether that be via Monday ASB meetings or the school Facebook group. Administrators can also present them more clearly when these events get closer.

Of course, it’s doubtful that all students will heed stricter enforcement and clearer dance policies. However, if these measures prevent even a handful of students from making decisions out of ignorance or stupidity, such an effort will be worth it. In the meantime, more students should deem these dances as privileges and not act in a way that endangers the few dances we have left for everyone.