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What’s in a song?

To Homewood-Flossmoor High School students, songs are catchy tunes with a good beat.

H-F senior Shannon Dunne 
spoke at the Board of 
Education meeting this week 
to ask for compromise 
on the school’s music policy.

(Photo by Marilyn Thomas/
HF Chronicle)

To administrators, too many contain vulgarity, descriptions of sexual acts and violence and lots of innuendo.  That’s why the play list at school dances has been restricted.

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Students believe it’s unfair. The adults are “taking fun out” of dances a senior told members of the H-F Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday. After her prom expenses started with $150 in tickets and $800 costs for a dress, shoes and incidentals she hoped to enjoy herself. She said she and many other students were disappointed because the music wasn’t what they wanted to hear.

Students are petitioning for a change in the policy on what music can be played by hired disc jockeys at dances. Administrators say they will listen to the students’ requests. They’ve listened to students before and have tried to reach a compromise, but there’s a fine line that they are not willing to cross.

Superintendent Von Mansfield said students may be listening to the crass music with lots of F-words, descriptions of explicit sex acts and discussions of violence, but it is not acceptable at H-F. The district has been struggling with the issue for about a dozen years.

“I’m not sure why Top 10 music has to push our values,” he told the audience of about 15 students and parents. Under the current policy, dance organizers must present a playlist with printed lyrics for each song to administrators who determine if the language is what is considered appropriate for H-F’s standards.

Senior Shannon Dunne said she already has a list of songs students want to hear at dances. She circulated a petition asking for a reconsideration of the restrictive music policy and collected more than 1,000 signatures at H-F and online.

“Can we meet in the middle somewhere?” she wondered. “Ours is a little too conservative for a public school. The place where your line is appropriate and inappropriate isn’t anywhere near what we consider appropriate and inappropriate.”

The administration started restricting music after the disc jockey played “I Don’t Mess with You” by Big Sean at the 2015 Turn-About dance and students shouted out the lyrics that Dunne admitted “is based on vulgarity — every other word.”

She knows students got carried away, but she blamed the DJ who should have played the “clean” version in which most of the wording is changed to be acceptable enough to play on the radio.

The music policy is so broad, Dunne said, that it’s having an affect on music played at sporting events, as well as songs used by cheerleading and pom-pom squads and aired by H-F Broadcasting programs.

Superintendent Von Mansfield said he has teenagers at home and doesn’t like the language. Even the clean versions can be hard to listen to, “and it’s hard to ignore what it perpetuates,” he added.

 “As a parent, if you stood up and read those lyrics in a public meeting, I think you would be shocked and appalled,” Mansfield added. “It’s a shame that we’ve gotten to the point where what’s popular is the cursing, the innuendo and vulgarity. “

“I don’t allow swearing in my home, but I’m a realist,” one mother said. “I want my daughter to be prepared to address things like this.”

Several parents spoke of the excellent education their students are receiving at H-F and that the school is reinforcing the principles of good judgment they are teaching at home. One mother said she didn’t believe her daughter, an honors student, would be making unsound decisions based on song lyrics.

Other parents questioned why they weren’t notified of the policy change.

The board agreed students concerns should be heard. Principal Ryan Pitcock will meet with a student committee to begin talks on how the music policy will be determined for 2016 dances.


More information:
Petition: HF’s Overly Conservative Music Policy

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