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The principal of a Maine high school is defending a decision to cancel school dances, saying conflict had arisen between staff, students, and parents over students’ “grinding” at the events.

Chris Record, principal at Gorham High School, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that school officials have been concerned about “modern dance culture” for the past seven years.

In a letter recently posted on the school’s website, he said that Gorham High has become “plagued by the culture of grinding,” especially in the most recent two school years.

“Dances are not what they were 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago,” Record said. “Sadly that’s just the shift. It’s certainly not the students’ fault,” Record said.

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“Its a tough decision, it’s a really tough decision, and in the short term there is some antagonism and some disappointment,” he said.

At the school’s homecoming dance in September 2014, an announcement was made reminding students that grinding was not allowed. This led to two-thirds of those in attendance to walk out of the dance.

Record, 42, explained that both staff and students have complained that the dancing made them feel uncomfortable.

Students in the small town of Gorham past and present have said they felt peer pressure to participate in grinding, Record said. The principal of eight years said he wanted to make sure the school fostered an environment where all students feel safe and respected.

Parents also complained about their children being “exposed to conduct that they believe should not occur at school,” Record wrote in the letter.

In addition, few chaperones are willing to staff the dance because being in the presence of students grinding puts them in an “awkward position,” he wrote.

“We’re not a nightclub, we’re a school, and we have core values. And I cannot condone having students grind their bodies and doing simulated sex,” Record said in an interview.

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Six of the town’s school board members did not return messages seeking comment. The seventh declined to comment.

In grinding, one person gets behind the other person, holds the other person’s hips, and rubs against them.

Despite the controversy, many students and parents have told Record that they are disappointed about missing out on the homecoming dance.

The school is planning other possible events, however, so student groups can still raise funds, Record said. Ideas for events include holding a homecoming bonfire, hosting open gym nights, or inviting a comedian to perform.

Prom will also still be held at the end of the school year.

In Massachusetts last year, Hopkinton High School banned upcoming dances after officials said the dancing had become inappropriate.


Sarah Roberts can be reached at sarah.roberts@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @heysarahroberts.