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Dirty dancing?: Texas teens say their behavior's not that risque

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ARGYLE, Texas - In a town known for horse farms and ranchette refuges for harried commuters, an age-old debate over dirty dancing and slinky dresses at the homecoming dance has split this close-knit community.

The school superintendent at the center of this debate insists he only wants to raise standards for student conduct in a district already known for its achievements - a trip to the state football championship, a state marching band championship and 100 percent graduation rates for two straight years.

"If you're simulating sexual acts and you're touching, you're not creating an environment that's conducive to learning," says Jason Ceyanes, the first-year superintendent in Argyle ISD. "As we are defining who we are, we want to maintain the highest standards possible."

At last year's prom, school officials felt some girls wore too-revealing dresses. During the summer, Ceyanes decided to set new boundaries this year: No pelvis-to-pelvis dancing, or what kids call "bumping and grinding." No spaghetti straps, strapless gowns or backless dresses.

At the recent high school homecoming dance, some girls used duct tape to widen their straps. Other girls wore T-shirts over their dresses. Administrators interrupted the dancing when students got too close for adult comfort.

The new rules brought a rude awakening for some kids - a clash between their world of teenage angst and the grown-up world of rules.

"It's so hard to react to such drastic changes," 16-year-old Amber Hardy said, while taking orders at Giovanni's Pizza & Pasta, the local teen hangout where color photos of football games and marching bands line the walls.

Amber and her friends say the crackdown could backfire by driving them away from school dances.

"It's encouraging kids to go off and do their own things instead of being in a safe environment that's chaperoned," she said.

Sitting nearby, students from Argyle's private Liberty Christian School say they couldn't get away with dirty dancing at their school. But they said strapless dresses are OK for dances at their school.

Everyone agrees the debate over dancing and clothes is nothing new. Depending on whom you ask, the issue is just another generational disconnect or it's a golden moment to teach kids about "common moral decency."

"I'm not happy with the way my kids dance, but my parents weren't real happy with the way we danced either," said Barbara Roberts, whose daughter is a senior. "They're just expressing themselves. Could their dances be a little cleaner? They probably could."

Argyle resident Spencer Jeffries backs the superintendent.

"All he is doing is enforcing the prevailing standards of the citizens of Argyle," says Jeffries, who believes the issue has been mischaracterized.

Ceyanes, who is 34, has publicly proclaimed his Christianity, and critics say he is imposing his own personal beliefs on the students. They point to the fact that he became a father at the age of 17.

Ceyanes says the criticism is unfair.

"It isn't about me trying to correct my past. I'm not trying to be the moral monitor," he said. "I would feel the same regardless."

Argyle, population 2,700, dates to 1881, when the Texas and Pacific Railway laid tracks and the town was born.

People move to Argyle to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Here, houses sit on three- and four-acre lots. Olympic horse-jumpers train here. But the town doesn't have its own grocery store.

Until 2000, students attended high school in Denton or Justin. That fall, Argyle High School opened for ninth and 10th graders.

This year, the town hosted its second homecoming parade and the first bonfire.

On any given afternoon, many of the locals can be found dining in the one of the town's newest restaurants, Snooty Pig Cafe, a cozy eatery that serves large muffins with its meals.

Taking a break from his lunch, Jack Wyman, the director of development at Liberty Christian School, talked about the district's efforts.

"I think the superintendent is 100 percent correct," said Wyman. "They deserve the support of their community for at least attempting to have some standards of decency."

Karen Miller, the parent of a senior girl, is still upset two weeks after the homecoming dance. She had to spend an extra $100 on something for her daughter to wear over her dress.

"They just want to look nice," she said. "It's my child's senior year and they should be able to wear these dresses."

To prove a point, Miller showed the superintendent a dress that would have met current dress code standards. The dress belonged to her 78-year-old mother.

Ceyanes said he hopes that he and his critics will eventually find common ground.

A compromise could be on the horizon.

Ceyanes wants to bring in a dance instructor to show kids other ways of dancing. Last week, he met with students who want to learn new moves from professional instructors. And he says he is willing to revise the dress code with the help of a student advisory board.

Some kids argue they don't know how else to dance. At a recent meeting attended by parents, Ceyanes showed a clip from YouTube of a couple "freak" dancing. At one point, the girl's pelvis touches the boy's pelvis as they sway to the music.

"I know there are other ways to dance," said Steph Parks, 16. "The video they showed looked worse than what we do."

Kristie Belvis, also 16, is more frustrated with the dress code.

"I kind of understand their point on dancing, but the dress code I don't agree with," she says, her friends nodding in agreement. "The whole three-inch (shoulder) strap thing was kind of ridiculous."

"These people are treating the kids like the tramps of Argyle," said Roberts. "We've got so many other things we need to be concentrating on than sleaze and dancing."

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