Arlington High School has suspended all school dances because of an increasing number of students drinking alcohol and dancing inappropriately at the school functions.
Mary Villano, the interim principal at the school, sent a newsletter to parents Monday saying the moratorium on dances will be in place until school administrators can address their growing concerns about the behavior.
“It’s at the point where we’re worried something tragic will happen,” Villano said in telephone interview with the Globe Tuesday.
Villano said over the past couple of years the high school has seen an increasing number of students who have been getting drunk at school dances. Administrators and teachers use breathalyzers on some students they suspect have been drinking before they enter the school dances, but Villano said students are increasingly finding ways to sneak alcohol in and get drunk at the dances. She said there is so much alcohol at the dances that staff can smell it.
At every dance, Villano said the school has had to ask at least a couple of students to leave and then suspend them for drinking. This year, she said some students have vomited and been taken to the hospital from school dances because they were so drunk.
At the same time, Villano said school officials also believe the dancing of students has become too sexual, including dances in which students are “grinding” on each other.
Villano said if school officials close their eyes to the inappropriate dancing then students may think it’s acceptable, and the school has decided it’s time to address it.
Arlington Superintendent Kathleen Bodie (cq) said she supports the decision to suspend the dances because of the drinking and dancing concerns because she would rather have a proactive discussion about appropriate behavior than wait until a tragedy occurs after a dance.
Bodie said she's sure other school districts have faced similar problems with school dances from time to time, especially with teens that don't think anything bad could ever happen to them.
"I think it's great for the kids to have the opportunity to get together and have fun, but with those opportunities come responsibilities," Bodie said.
Villano said she plans to meet with parents to discuss the moratorium with parents next month and discussion groups will be led with students in January in an effort to agree on what is acceptable behavior at dances.
While some students are concerned that a semi-formal dance in the spring and prom could be canceled because of the moratorium, Villano said she has not said that yet. But if the school, parents and students can’t agree on what rules should be in place for the dances, she said they may cease altogether at the high school.
“But I don’t think it’s going to go that far,” she said.