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Thompson calls dance an 'embarrassment'

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County Schools Superintendent John Thompson on Thursday called the Jonesboro High School dance team's recent performance during half time at a basketball game an "embarrassment" to the district.

The team made headlines for a risqué performance Jan. 13 that included suggestive dance moves performed for males seated in chairs on the gym floor.

"Somebody should have stopped it," Thompson told a group of parents Thursday. "If I had been there, I would have stopped it ... Every girl needs to have a level of respect for herself."

To avoid similar episodes in the future, Thompson said he will require members of all dance programs, at all Clayton County schools, to undergo dance training led by Melissa Colon, Clayton County's Teacher Of The Year, and the dance instructor at Babb Middle School.

Colon led a high school dance troupe, Zodiax, to a national title on Black Entertainment Television (BET) in November.

School officials say the Jonesboro High dance team has been disbanded, and its sponsor forbidden from coaching the group if it ever reforms. The school system's human resources department is conducting an investigation into the performance.

A six-minute video of the team's performance turned up on the video Web site YouTube.com and on social networking site MySpace.com.

The dancers are shown wearing long-sleeve, spandex-type tops, mini-shorts and white, knee-high stockings.

The video includes a three-minute portion in which males are pulled from the bleachers and seated in chairs on the gym floor. While seated, the dancers perform suggestive dance moves. Later, the dancers are shown marching into the bleachers where they continue their routine.

During the routine, a crowd is shown converging in the center section of the bleachers to take pictures with cameras and cell phones.

Though no administrators are shown trying to stop the performance, the video shows individuals walking in front of the crowd, apparently motioning for people to sit in the bleachers rather than on the gym floor.

Board of Education members Charlton Bivins and Mary Baker, who were not at Thursday's meeting between the superintendent and parents, but spoke with the Clayton News Daily by phone beforehand, echoed Thompson's concerns about the lack of administrative intervention.

Jonesboro is in Baker's district, and Bivins' daughter, Chelsea, is a senior at the school. Thompson, and the two board members said administrators should have been proactive, and stopped the performance.

"Those in charge of the event didn't step up at the first sign of trouble," Bivins said.

"At first you're stunned, but then you ask yourself 'Where were the adults in the room?'" Baker said. "Why would it take six minutes for an adult to not shut things down? If it had been my child up there, I would have wasted no time searching for an off button, or the power plug."

Thompson said he met Wednesday with school officials from all of the district's schools about the incident. On Thursday, he told the parents the district will reprimand school officials who allow dances like the one performed at Jonesboro to occur.

"When it gets to my level, it's all over," the superintendent said.

Helen Arnold, a parent of a Jonesboro High School student, and an attendee at the basketball game where the dance was performed, said Jonesboro Principal Carl Jackson was not at the game. "I truly believe if our principal had been there, he would have pulled the plug early on," Arnold said. "The assistant principals, unfortunately, did not seem to think they had that same authority."

Thompson said an administrator's approval is now required for all dances.

The students had to gain prior approval for the routine from an administrator before the game, but may not have presented the program's actual content, said district spokesman Charles White .

"They only performed part of the routine, and we suspect it may have been altered afterwards," White said.

"You have to inspect before you expect," Bivins said. "If we did not have policies and procedures already in place, then we absolutely have to add some."

It is unclear how many high schools in the district have a dance club, or dance team. But, at least three other high schools have some form of dancing group, according to their Web sites.

"It's a club, so it could be everywhere, or it could only be at Jonesboro," White said.

Mt. Zion High School has a dance club, but the school's Web site says its dancers perform mainly in musicals, and for elementary school children. North Clayton High School's dance team performs with the school's marching band, according to that school's Web site. Lovejoy High School also has a dance team, but its Web site does not specify what the group does.

Lists of student organizations for Forest Park and Riverdale high schools could not be found on their respective school Web sites.

Morrow and Mundy's Mill high schools did not have dance teams listed among their student organizations.