Should students be suspended for takes on ‘Harlem Shake?’

A mom sent me a note about students being suspended for creating versions of the “Harlem Shake.” She thought it would be a cute video for her son’s senior class but now she’s concerned that they might be suspended. Here’s more:

“Personally I think it’s a riot and told my son, who is a senior, that he ought to get the senior class to film one. But then I started hearing about kids getting suspended for it. Some schools think it’s too [sexually] suggestive. But I’ve seen all kinds of groups post their version (including Scout Troops and our local Chick-Fil-A staff!) so I do believe it can be done in a non-suggestive manner.”

“I think some of the suspensions came as a result of lying about the use of school property and disrupting class. But if it’s done in a tasteful manner and outside of school hours, is it really that bad? Since it’s an international phenom right now, I think it would fun for his Senior Class to do their own video but since he goes to a pretty strict Christian school, I’m worried the school wouldn’t think to highly of it. I have considered emailing the principle and seeing what the administration thinks. The senior class has done a flash mob dance of Gangnam Style in the hallways so I don’t think they’re totally opposed to fun but sometimes they surprise me with what gets them bent out of shape.”

Here is what The Washington Post wrote about the suspensions:

“According to the National Coalition against Censorship, about 100 students across the country have been suspended for making and posting their own version of the viral video on the Web. School districts have offered a variety of reasons for the suspensions, said NCAC Director Joan Bertin, with most saying that the videos, which feature suggestive dancing, are inappropriate. However, Bertin said, she believes that regardless of how the videos could be interpreted, decisions to suspend students and keep them out of class cross the line. The NCAC has compared the schools’ actions to the plot of the 1984 film “Footloose,” in which a town outlaws dancing and rock music.”

“The FAA is trying to determine if some students violated any rules when they performed a popular dance during a flight from Colorado Springs to San Diego. Members of the Colorado College Ultimate team did the “Harlem Shake” in the aisles. “It seems a rather disproportionate response by educators to something that, at most, I would characterize as teenage hijinks,” Bertin said.”

“All technology shifts that give individuals a larger audience — from the printing press on, Bertin said — tend to make authority figures uncomfortable. More student censorship issues have emerged as young people gain more access to outlets for expression, such as the ability to post videos to YouTube, publish their thoughts on personal blogs and spread ideas through social media such as Facebook.”

Here are some versions to check out:

Here are five Boy Scout groups’ versions.

USA Today video about Minnesota students who were suspended

Would you let your child participate in a school version of the dance? Do you think its worth suspensions? Can it be done in a fun, non-offensive manner?

58 comments Add your comment

mike

March 6th, 2013
6:17 am

People need to learn the origin of the dance. It was created by gangs in Harlem. They shot crippled people and would fall a certain way. The Harlem Shake was born after that.

FCM

March 6th, 2013
6:21 am

If the student wants to do the video, have him talk to the principal. He can present his idea. Mom needs to encourage son but not email school for him. Kid is a senior, he should be able to handle it.

I dont think we have enough information to comment on the suspension.

Sure my kids could participate if they want. Of course dancing can be more or less suggestive or lewd. With kids, I recommend less suggestive.

Mother of 2

March 6th, 2013
7:51 am

Suggestive or not, it’s a harmless thing that kids across the country are doing. If your school forbids it, just perform it in a manner that in no way represents the school.

A Realist

March 6th, 2013
8:01 am

More evidence that American culture continues on the downward slide.

MomsRule

March 6th, 2013
8:03 am

Worth suspensions? There are too many variables to make an across the board judgment.

In the Mound video is does appear as pure chaos and like the students are out of control. It reminds me of a cafeteria food fight. A food fight would warrant suspensions and the suspensions wouldn’t be questioned. Just because it is the “latest” fad doesn’t mean it is appropriate in all settings.

I am interested in the permission that was given by the teacher. For the most part teachers need to get permission for anything “out of the norm” so I have a hard time believing the teacher authorized this specific “project.” A Harlem Shake video … probably. A Harlem Shake video unstructured in the cafeteria … probably not.

I agree with FCM … the senior needs to talk the principal himself. Mom should not be involved.

Dennis

March 6th, 2013
8:28 am

I would suspend the students for being at least two weeks late to jump on this meme.

oneofeach4me

March 6th, 2013
8:39 am

Sexually suggestive?? Hmm.. so what do they call the cheerleaders with barely there skirts and undies with but cheeks hanging out doing their dances??

Mike is right as to the origin of the Harlem Shake although I doubt most administrators have a clue as to it’s origin. Additionally, the version going around on these viral YouTube videos isn’t even the real version as it has more to do with the chorus in the dub-step song itself.

It’s a dance craze that’s hot right now, and personally, I think some of the videos are hilarious. If I was a senior, I would figure out a way to get it done, but not during instructional time and not in a suggestive way.

I also agree that mom needs to stay out of it. The son knows his teachers and administrators better than she. If her son wants to take the risk, he will either reap the rewards or the consequences. Either way, he is old enough to make that decision on his own.

oneofeach4me

March 6th, 2013
8:40 am

LOL @ Dennis, I was actually thinking the same thing!

abc

March 6th, 2013
8:47 am

Anyone dumb enough to even consider degrading themselves by jibbering around like a simian desreves more than a suspension.

DB

March 6th, 2013
8:58 am

I’d say that there are about a million ways this could be done that is not offensive, suggestive or obscene. There are also another million ways that it COULD be offensive, suggestive or obscene. Interesting to see if her son knows the difference :-) My kids went to a fairly strict Christian school, and as long a they kept it clean, it would probably have gotten by. But her SON needs to talk to the principal, dean or headmaster – not momma! In six months, son will probably be away at college — if he hasn’t started making these kinds of decisions for himself now, it’s past time to start.

FDNH

March 6th, 2013
9:35 am

The flight attendants who allowed them to do this ought to be fired. That is the answer.

FDNH

March 6th, 2013
9:37 am

OOps. I posted based on title; didn’t see that this is a new HS prank, not the ’shakes on a plane’ prank two weeks ago. All of it is stupid, wherever it is done.

jarvis

March 6th, 2013
9:51 am

People getting worked up about nothing.
It’s overplayed, but not worthy of suspension.

GTT

March 6th, 2013
9:51 am

jarvis

March 6th, 2013
9:56 am

As for mike’s “explanation” of the origin….how many handicapped people n Harlem have been shot by gangs?

I’m not going to the trouble to Snope it, but that sounds highly implausible.

A

March 6th, 2013
10:14 am

I guess the Harlem Shake is the Gangnam Style of 2013. Fads come and fads go.

Just sayin

March 6th, 2013
10:23 am

It is a fad. They are worried about this? At least the students are coming together to do something creative. For goodness sakes the school cheerleading and dance teams do more suggestive dancing than these kids.

Maude

March 6th, 2013
10:34 am

I cannot believe that a responisble parent would want their child to do that dance!! Let alone film it and put it out there for all to see! I believe in freedom of expression and dancing but there has to be a line of what is exceptable in public.

oneofeach4me

March 6th, 2013
10:53 am

@ Jarvis ~ well, not sure if urbandictionary.com is a legit source of that info, but I had heard the same thing years ago as far as where it originated. not sure though.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=harlem+shake

oneofeach4me

March 6th, 2013
10:57 am

Man, some people need to get a sense of humor!! It’s just a dance people, and the videos are funny. Laughter is good for you, and so is letting loose every once in a while and just being goofy!! Heck, I would rather my kid make a Harlem Shake video than to be sexting!!! There are worse things than the Harlem Shake.

@A ~ I agree, it is sort of the Ganham Style of 2013. Actually NPR had an interesting story on it a few weeks ago. http://www.npr.org/blogs/therecord/2013/02/20/172517323/long-before-the-harlem-shake-we-did-the-shimmy

mike

March 6th, 2013
11:02 am

Ask anyone from Harlem they will tell you what it is. Believe it or don’t. I don’t care. Doesn’t change the truth

Georgia

March 6th, 2013
11:03 am

Only Psy can dance like Psy. Other’s try his dance, but fail miserably. Same with the harlem shake. So what are we supposed to do after we get the bit in the first three milliseconds? Watch the whole video that stinks so bad Psy himself defected back to North Korea?

Suspension is the only course. This looks like a job for the Dekalb School Board. Whatever happened to them anyway? Tell me they din’t make a video.

Begging here.

Techmom

March 6th, 2013
11:28 am

I agree with oneofeach4me. I think it’s funny and yes, it’s a fad that will fade quickly but in the meantime, have fun with it.

I liked this statement: “All technology shifts that give individuals a larger audience — from the printing press on, Bertin said — tend to make authority figures uncomfortable.” The authority within school always seem to be the ones grappling for control. Making a huge issue out of it seems to just add fuel to the fire for these students instead of letting them have their 30 seconds of fame and moving on.

Real Life

March 6th, 2013
11:34 am

This across-the-board question cannot be answered with a generic answer as each situation is different. The circumstances of each video need to be considered. In too many instances we see a video or hear about an incident and judge it by one standard. Saying that something is just a dance does not take into account other aspects of the event that might warrent deeper consideration. We want all to be generic these days and have a one-size-fits-all approach. And, as we see time and again, that simply does not work. This is not a good question as it is too broad to really answer.

Ace

March 6th, 2013
12:10 pm

Too much time on their hands.

oneofeach4me

March 6th, 2013
12:15 pm

“Saying that something is just a dance does not take into account other aspects of the event that might warrent deeper consideration.”

In regards to the videos I have seen, there wasn’t much that would warrant deeper consideration. That’s not to say there aren’t some out there or that it couldn’t lead to that, however, my whole point was to say I don’t think all the hoopla is necessary unless you see some teenagers doing things in the videos that are a danger to themselves or others or are morally incorrect. Other than that… have fun with it I say!!

Bernie

March 6th, 2013
12:25 pm

My initial response was ARE YOU KIDDING ME? But being that many of Americans are living in a Conservative Republican dominated twilight zone with a mindset stuck in 1950’s. Where theay long for a return to the days of JUNE CLEAVER and her clan. Anything is possible for today’d kids to be faced with a illogical decisioion.

My second response was should I have my HEAD EXAMINED for reading and then commenting on such Nonsense of a Topic. Especially when there far to many others with more pressing concerns that would be of a better interest to all of the readers. However, when one considers the source and I see the photo above. The answer becomes crystal clear!

These Individuals come from a entirely different Universe of interests and opinions.

Bernie

March 6th, 2013
12:27 pm

spelling corrections in my haste and frustration with subject matter at hand:

My initial response was ARE YOU KIDDING ME? But being that many of Americans are living in a Conservative Republican dominated twilight zone with a mindset stuck in 1950’s. Where they long for a return to the days of JUNE CLEAVER and her clan. Anything is possible for today’s kids to be faced with a illogical decisioion.

My second response was, should I have my HEAD EXAMINED for reading and then commenting on such Nonsense of a Topic. Especially, when there are far to many others with more pressing concerns that would be of a better interest to all of the readers. However, when one considers the source and I see the photo above. The answer becomes crystal clear!

These Individuals come from a entirely different Universe of interests and opinions.

I agree wholeheartedly, Bernie...

March 6th, 2013
12:40 pm

…you do need to have your HEAD EXAMINED…

Big Mama

March 6th, 2013
12:45 pm

I fail to see a cause for an uproar over these videos. In my day, these dances would have warranted an eyeroll from adults but little more. They certainly aren’t as suggestive as the “humpty” dance. There are way too many uptight adults making a fuss over nothing.

Jeff

March 6th, 2013
1:10 pm

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Diamonds

March 6th, 2013
1:48 pm

At least they are not doing drugs and having sex with each other… oh wait

Logical Dude

March 6th, 2013
1:55 pm

(have not seen the videos, or even know what Harlem Shake is. . . other than probably another dance like Gangnam Style)

Dudes, if you’re going to suspend students, at least give a good reason, not just because you’re uncomfortable with people actually reflecting what they see in society.

The origin of the dance/music does not matter. It’s what is popular.
The moral character of the students is what counts, not what the original artist intends. If they are just having a good time, then it’s stupid to suspend kids for that.

Now, if there are classroom disruptions or lying about video equipment being used, then hey, that might be a real reason to suspend someone, but detention is probably a better bet than suspension.

Sheesh, are kids being suspended for every little thing these days? (asked as someone with no kids)

ssidawg

March 6th, 2013
2:03 pm

I love the Harlem Shakes videos. As with everything, you can push the line and make them too suggestive or you can exercise common sense and they are a lot of fun.

I think it would be a cute thing for the senior class to do but I also know that some schools will suspend you for the stupidest things….since we’re talking about a “pretty strict Christian school” I’d get permission first before doing anything to jeopardize his senior year.

Techmom

March 6th, 2013
2:19 pm

@LogicalDude – yes, schools suspend students constantly. When I was younger, if you got suspended from school, it was a huge deal. Now days it seems like that’s the first response. My son’s school does not even have ISS (in school suspension) as they say it’s too costly. I can’t really argue with that but it also means that it’s not nearly as harsh a punishment as it used to be.

Georgia

March 6th, 2013
2:56 pm

The best school video of all time is “Hot for Teacher” by Van Halen. That video was made by fifth graders at a middle school in the Dekalb District before the present suspended board ruined everything. I think it won a Grammy.

Devil's Advocate

March 6th, 2013
3:05 pm

We need to open more prisons and raise taxes to fund them in order to punish these kids and their parents.

Grasshopper

March 6th, 2013
3:10 pm

Well…it ain’t the Macarena!

Hey, it's just me

March 6th, 2013
3:15 pm

@ Bernie — Yes, have your head examined, Your jaded-liberal-for-the-sake-of-liberalness is showing, big time. Long live June Cleaver!!

A Realist

March 6th, 2013
3:23 pm

Everyone should get a trophy for participating….the rich should pay for the poor to attend….and we should tax the winner 99%

John

March 6th, 2013
4:02 pm

@mike – Your story about the Harlem Shake starting because “cripple” people were being shot by gang members comes from urban dictionary (which, and I feel I must explain because you used the website as a source fact, is not a real dictionary or a credible source for information).

Real Life

March 6th, 2013
4:08 pm

” In regards to the videos I have seen, there wasn’t much that would warrant deeper consideration”.

I did not realize that the only thing we needed to do was look at the video rather than examine all the circumstances around it. My mistake and I stand corrected for thinking that, in some instances, there might be things not filmed that administration took into consideration before issuing the suspensions.

Denise

March 6th, 2013
11:56 pm

http://thegrio.com/2013/03/04/melissa-harris-perry-shows-viewers-true-harlem-shake/

Commentary on the “current” Harlem Shake videos versus the “original” Harlem Shake. Good video for those who have never seen what the Harlem shake really is…and is not.

liberalefty

March 7th, 2013
7:07 am

@mike 6:17am

this dance wasnt started by gangs, thats a lie

FCM

March 7th, 2013
8:30 am

I went and looked at several versions of the Harlem Shake last night. Denise is right this stuff is not the real deal.

The folks in Harlem that were interviewed, thought that these dancers might need psychiatric help. They looked silly, idiotic, and like space aliens, according to those interviewed.

One guy did what is the Harlem Shake and yes it is lots of movement but it has more purpose than the viral videos claim.

SO I investigated the 3 week old meme version of the dance. Turns out this dance crazy was started by Australian Surfers who just happened to use the Harlem Shake SONG to do their video too.

I have to say my favorite comment was that the people in these vidoes have no rhythym.

FCM

March 7th, 2013
8:34 am

Denise

March 7th, 2013
11:51 am

To the question….no, students should not be suspended for doing these videos 1. on their own time and 2. off campus. That way they are sure not to be disruptive or disrespectful to the administration or the hallowed halls of their monument to education (/sarcasm).

The issue is really if the kids are being disruptive. Lots of the videos have the participants going nuts and no, you just can’t do that in the classroom or in the hall while changing classes. Maybe not even in the cafeteria either during lunch. All that can be disruptive and hard to control and eventually calm down. It’s not like they stop laughing and playing around as soon as the camera is shut off. That is FUN and funny and who wouldn’t want to keep talking about it and laughing about it. I know I rewind them and watch them at least twice if I think they are funny! (See the Miami Heat’s video! Hilarious!)

Long story short, if they do it on their own time, and not on a school-sponsored activity, heck no they shouldn’t be suspended. But then again, I’m one that thinks it is really out of line that teachers are fired for having wine in pictures from vacation on FaceBook. People have LIVES outside of school and as long as it is not illegal or immoral I don’t think it’s anybody’s business. (I know, “immoral”…what is that?)

Denise

March 7th, 2013
1:33 pm

@Big Mama – if you think the Humpty Dance was suggestive, you were doing it wrong.

tina

March 7th, 2013
1:33 pm

Why is this post still up? I would think there would be a new one every day.

BuckeyeGa

March 7th, 2013
2:07 pm

@Denise 1:33
I was thinking the same thing.
The dance has nothing to do with people getting shot. I guess it’s great to make stuff up.