SAVANNAH - Chatham County public school students might have to think twice about how they behave during performances in the future.
On Wednesday, the school board unofficially agreed to put tighter restrictions on how students, including cheerleading squads, dance troupes, fine art ensembles and marching bands, are expected to act in public.
"There are some major changes to some of the items (in the policy)," said Superintendent John F. O'Sullivan Jr. "We tried to broaden the umbrella we're trying to operate under."
In addition to directly relating student performance with academic preparation, the revised policy prohibits "lewd gestures, inappropriate comments and suggestive or vulgar movements" during all student performances. It also requires that a uniformed campus police officer accompany all marching bands during local parades, including the Savannah Martin Luther King Jr. Parade and the Savannah St. Patrick's Day Parade, both of which marching band students are required to participate in.
And while the policy encompasses a broad group of students - all performers - the reasons for the policy are specific. Some marching band students and cheerleaders have offended some adults by moving too suggestively during parades and football games, generating complaints.
"I am one of the board members that does receive complaints about different performing groups in our district and have in fact, witnessed it myself," board member Lori Brady said at Wednesday's meeting. "I rode in the St. Patrick's Day Parade behind (a marching band) so I got to witness (the lewd moves) for three hours," Ms. Brady said.
Beach High School teens were demonstrating "what I felt were inappropriate dancing movements," Ms. Brady said, explaining that her concern was student safety.
"With the St. Patrick's Day Parade you've got people who are drinking. When you start dancing around suggestively and you've got drunks on the side of the road, they're going to join in," she continued. "It's inappropriate for teen-agers to do those types of movements."
Beach High School, Ms. Brady emphasized, is not alone in regard to questionable performances. She said that several board members have received complaints and have complained themselves about several schools.
Beach High School Principal Roy Davenport could not be reached for comment.
At Johnson High School, Principal Gary Lackey said he received a similar type of complaint earlier this year.
"I did have a complaint from a parent a while back that centered mostly on our cheerleaders and some dancing they were doing," he said. "It wasn't anything outrageous or anything like that."
The cheerleaders, Mr. Lackey said, had made up some of their own moves that their squad adviser was unaware of.
"What I did was ask the young ladies not to do any type of dance without having it cleared through the adviser first. They had to restructure some of the dances they were doing. It seems to have worked out OK.
"It's a hard thing to address. They always mean well, but they want to be popular with the crowd."
The board will vote on the policy Oct. 17.
"Most of our student performances are exemplary," school board member Susu Cox said.
"There are those few black spots sometimes that will cloud the great performances."
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