Westonka principal says students went beyond merely dancing; student says dancers were unjustly punished.
The principal of Mound Westonka High School said students, including varsity hockey players, who were suspended Friday for their lunchroom rendition of popular dance craze the “Harlem Shake” went beyond just dancing, but a student disciplined for participating said Saturday that they did nothing wrong.
Senior Jack Brandstetter, 17, is among parents and students who have criticized the school’s decision not to allow him and several other players on the school’s boys’ hockey team to play in their section playoff game Friday night because of the incident.
Principal Keith Randklev defended the school’s actions Saturday, saying, “In and of itself, that type of activity would not necessarily lead to any type of school consequences. … This went beyond that.”
Brandstetter thought differently. The students, including six hockey players, were recording a school-sanctioned video of themselves performing the “Harlem Shake” in the cafeteria so that they could submit for a weekly school broadcast, he said.
As two lunchroom supervisors watched approvingly, the dancers recruited other students to join in and some of the dancers jumped onto lunch tables, Brandstetter said.
He said he did not see any tables or other school property damaged or any food thrown. After the dance, as he and others were returning their lunch trays, the school’s resident police officer and its activities director, Dion Koltes, confiscated the video camera students had been using, Brandstetter said.
He and the others then returned to their classrooms, where they heard that other police officers had been called to the school to help examine the video.
About 2 p.m., he said, he was called into the office, where Randklev, Koltes, the school police officer and an assistant principal handed him a $75 ticket they said was for “engaging in a riotlike activity and starting a mob.”
He was also told that he would be suspended for two days and would not be allowed to play in Friday night’s game.“I was totally, wrongfully accused, and not given a chance to defend myself,” he said. The other dance participants were called in one by one after him, and told the same thing, he said.
The “Harlem Shake” has become an Internet phenomenon, with thousands of YouTube videos of people dancing to the song by New York producer Baauer. While versions differ greatly, most videos consist of one person dancing by themselves and then when the lyrics command to “do the Harlem Shake” the video cuts to a group dancing crazily.A student’s 17-second cellphone video shows noisy students dancing in a cluster, some of them on tables.
Randklev wouldn’t say what exactly the students were doing that went beyond dancing but he said, “school policies were infringed upon.”
The Minnetrista police conducted its own investigation, but Randklev wouldn’t detail the results.On Friday night, the boys’ varsity team played Blake School in Minneapolis in a section quarterfinal playoff game. Blake had twice as many players on the bench as Mound Westonka. The Bears won 6-4. Parents and students expressed their anger toward Koltes at the game and on social media.
Coach Doug Runke said on Friday that the suspensions cost the team five skaters and the regular goalie. “This was not in the playbook,” he said. “We were in a tough spot.”
However, he added, that he was proud about how the rest of the team handled it. “They responded to the situation and played their hearts out.”
Brandstetter said that he and other players, along with their parents, plan to challenge the discipline. “As hockey players, we had taken away from us something we worked for our entire lives, a chance to play in a championship. It was completely unfair.”
Staff writers Pamela Miller and Bill McAuliffe contributed to this report. Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495Twitter: @stribnorfleet