But Mound Westonka High School officials’ effort to quell anger for “rushing to judgment” over Harlem Shake dance failed.
Angry parents of students suspended for bringing the latest Internet dance craze to a Mound Westonka High School lunchroom dismissed Sunday’s announcement that school officials were reducing the punishments, calling for the dismissal of administrators who authorized the discipline.
The suspension of six varsity hockey players just hours before a crucial playoff game Friday night incensed students and parents, and Sunday’s reconsideration did little to lessen their anger over a decision many blamed for a premature end to the team’s promising season.
“This is too little, too late,” said Michelle Brandstetter, whose 17-year-old son, Jack, was among the hockey players who missed the game that Mound Westonka lost to an underdog Blake squad. “They rushed to judgment.”
Brandstetter and other parents, along with a lawyer, expect to attend Monday night’s meeting of the Mound Westonka school board to voice their displeasure and seek remedies such as a public apology and the firing of the school officials who authorized the kids’ suspensions.
Mound Westonka High School Principal Keith Randklev defended the original suspensions, but said that after further review school officials had decided to eliminate a second day of suspensions for the six hockey players and two members of the school swim team.
He said they had also asked Minnetrista police to rescind $75 tickets officers issued to the students for engaging “in a riot-like behavior” after they performed the Harlem Shake, a popular dance craze that is sweeping the Internet via videos of kids doing the dance.
“We want them to reconsider the issuance of the tickets,” Randklev said. “We’ve communicated this to them.”
He also said that the one-day suspension was an adequate penalty for violating school rules.
“We feel that there were adequate consequences for their behavior,” Randklev said. “We just feel it is the right thing to do to reduce the consequences. Our goal is not to be punitive.”
Parents of the suspended students were told of the revised penalties in phone calls from district officials Sunday.
Mike Seats, whose son also was prevented from playing hockey, said on Sunday that he was happy to see the suspension reductions and hopes the tickets will be rescinded.
“The kids have suffered enough,” he said. “I have a profound sense of sadness.”
Brandstetter said she and other parents got calls from teachers, students and other districts noting that schools in other areas have had similar situations that did not result in suspensions or tickets being issued.
Jack Brandstetter said he was called into the principal’s office where Randklev, school police officer and an assistant principal handed him a $75 ticket they said was for “engaging in a riot-like activity and starting a mob.”
The “Harlem Shake” has become an Internet phenomenon, with thousands of YouTube videos of people dancing to the song. Most videos consist of one person dancing and then, when the lyrics command to “do the Harlem Shake,” the video cuts to a group dancing crazily.
The Mound Westonka students reenacted that and the incident was captured on video at the school because the dance was part of a class project. There were school supervisors on scene in the lunchroom.
A student’s 17-second cellphone video shows noisy students dancing in a cluster, some of them on tables. That and other videos of the event were posted on the Internet.
School officials confiscated the video and issued the suspensions on Friday, leaving the hockey team short-handed for the sectional quarterfinal.
Randklev said the district decided to act before the game rather than wait because school polices were violated. That decision did not sit well with parents, many of whom thought the district did not do a thorough investigation.
“The punishment doesn’t fit the crime,” Michelle Brandstetter said. “They rushed to judgment. There were no illegal actions that took place.”
Compounding the problem is the fact that the district will not say what the students did wrong, a position Randklev continued to defend on Sunday. He would only say that school policies were violated by the performance.
The videos do show students dancing on table tops and chairs, but there have been no allegations of vandalism or damage to property. Michelle Brandstetter said parents investigating the matter have only been able to document that a lunch tray was broken during the performance.
Herón Márquez • 952-746-3281