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2010 Vashon High School prom cancelled due to low ticket sales; 'grinding' also partly to blame

The Vashon High School Class of 2010 Associated Student Body cabinet voted Thursday to cancel the school's 2010 prom, which had been scheduled to take place in Seattle tomorrow.

Fewer than 50 tickets had been sold to the dance, and the Class of 2010 needed to sell 60 tickets at $25 apiece to break even on the event. There are 137 seniors at Vashon High School, and about 550 students in all. Every student was welcome to attend prom, said Becky Shigley, the Class of 2010 adviser, and the numbers for this prom were so low that the senior board opted to cancel the event.

"I'm very disappointed," said Vashon High School Principal Susan Hanson. Assistant Principal Stephanie Spencer "and I would certainly be willing to chaperone even if it was a low number because some kids wanted to go, but it was a hard decision for them and I am supportive of their decision."

The cancellation of the event is a "non-issue," Shigley said, because so few students had been planning to attend the event in the first place.

"It's not much of a prom anyway if only 46 people are there," she said. "There was no anticipation for this event all year long."

It was difficult to make the decision to cancel prom, said senior Brooke Pringle, one of five members of the senior class ASB cabinet who decided to pull the plug on Saturday's dance.

"It just didn't make sense to have the dance," she said. "It was a really tough decision, and I feel awful for those people who bought tickets and were looking forward to a fun time and are not going to be able to go now."

According to some parents and students, students are planning alternate prom activities for this weekend — such as dinners in Seattle — rather than attending the school-sponsored prom dance, in part because parents and the school administration recently cracked down on the popular "grinding" dance form at school dances.

While a no-contact dancing rule had been a school district policy, it was only loosely enforced until this fall, when a group of vocal parents insisted that students stop their sexually explicit grind dancing, which includes front-to-back gyrating contact between a male and female.

"Interest level in going to dances has drastically decreased this year," Pringle said. "The reason is because of the controversy over the dance style people choose. It's just not worth it to them anymore to go. It's really unfortunate to me, because what used to be a really fun night of a high school dance is now a topic of stress."

Senior Eli Hoyt said he and a group of about 10 friends had been planning to attend prom, but didn't have high expectations for the event. They and others who purchased tickets will get their money back.

"We thought, it's our senior prom, we might as well go," Hoyt said. "I'm going to go into town with a group of my friends. We're just going to do dinner and something fun in Seattle."

He, too, said he thought the grinding controversy greatly reduced students' interest in prom.

"Personally, I don't care about grinding — I don't have that much fun doing it," said junior Natalie Kerns, who will be ASB co-president at VHS next year. "But at the same time, kids my age don't know what else to do. I know how to do ballet and jazz, but other kids my age don't know what the other alternatives are. People aren't open to learning to ballroom dance or alternative ways of dancing. ... While I haven't heard 'prom' and 'grinding' in the same sentence, ... that's probably one of the main reasons that people are deciding not to go."

Students at Vashon High didn't seem very enthusiastic about prom this year, due in large part to the "grinding controversy," said senior Sy Bean.

"A dance is a high school function, and it's supposed to be our thing, but the parents got overinterested and made it their thing," Bean said. "Being too involved is a bad thing. As far as the student body goes, I think they were turned off by this fact, and it led to a lack of motivation to be involved with the dance, as evidenced by the low ticket sales."

Some students have put a good deal of effort into planning the prom, and all their work will now go to waste, said parent Marian Wachter, whose daughter Lily Katz is a junior and next year's incoming ASB co-president.

"Grinding offends me, but it's not the most important issue here," said Wachter. "These kids just aren't going to dances. ... The thing I'm concerned about is they're planning prom parties at people's homes — they might drink and drive. At least they're safe" at a school-sponsored dance.

Hanson sent out a letter to all parents of Vashon High seniors on Friday morning, urging parents to watch over their teens this weekend.

"Our biggest concern is the rumor of private parties being planned for May 8," Hanson wrote in the letter. "These 'prom alternatives' may be an appropriate substitute or a very dangerous evening. Please talk with your son or daughter about the dangers of comnsuming alcohol or drugs or driving in a car with someone who has been drinking or drugging."

Hanson's letter came on the heels of a rollover accident on Vashon Highway on May 2, a one-car incident that luckily did not injure any of the four teenage Islanders in the vehicle.

Hanson wrote in her letter that she did not "wish to have any empty chairs at graduation."

Students Pringle, Kerns and Bean said they hadn't heard of any big parties planned for this weekend. For the most part, Vashon High students are planning to have small outings off-Island, which they're affectionately calling "prom" but which have no affiliation with the school party and will not culminate in a dance at all.

"A bunch of people who were going to go to prom are just going to go out to dinner," Kerns said. "I've never heard of a prom getting canceled. It's sad because now we'll just be going to dinner. It's sort of a bummer."

The Class of 2010 is "very safe and very responsible," added Pringle.

"As far as I know, there aren't any huge parties or alternate events going on that are outside of the norm," she said. "Most people instead of going to prom are going to dinner or having dinner at a group member's house — but nothing that's going to put anyone's life in danger."

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