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'Harlem Shake' leads to suspensions in Grand Rapids

11:08 AM, Mar 2, 2013   |    comments
Grand Rapids Public Schools
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GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - Some of their parents say it was unfair for the Grand Rapids School District to suspend students for participating in a Harlem Shake video.  Nine 11th graders at Union High School have two-day suspensions after a 30-second dance video they made in class was posted on the internet.

The students and parents say the participants had permission from their substitute teacher, and the suspensions are an overreaction.

"We asked the sub and she said it was all right," says suspended student Adrian Hoffman.

"She said we can do it as long as we finish our work," confirms student Luis Romero, who recorded the "shake" on his iPod. "We did it in a couple of minutes and everyone went back to work."

But district spokesman John Helmholdt says the students were suspended because the dance was disruptive, inappropriate and unacceptable.

"The students took advantage of the situation with the substitute teacher," says Helmholdt. "Obviously, the teaching was significantly disrupted by the students standing on desks. The children exercised poor judgment and there are consequences for it."

The students recorded and put their Harlem Shake on the internet Thursday.  Friday, administrators handed out discipline.

"Two principals and three security guards came in and just started picking out students," says Romero. "I'm guessing they watched the video and got the main people and me for recording it."

"Called us into the office one by one and gave us two-day suspensions," says Hoffman.

"I was upset with that," says her mother, Tinnille Hoffman. "The assistant principal admitted they had permission. He thought the substitute teacher was wrong for giving permission, but they had permission, so I don't think they should be suspended."

Spokesman Helmholdt says the classroom is for teaching and learning, and the disruption violates the district's values and expectations for students.

"We have high standards and something like this does not meet those," he says. "We want to make sure the students know we take this very seriously."

At the same time the district suspended many of the students involved in the video, they dismissed the substitute teacher.
She was told her to gather up her belongings and was escorted her from the building.

"The adult in the room was not in control of the classroom," explains Helmholdt.

Other districts are also dealing with the Harlem Shake fad.  This week more than 30 students were suspended from Milford High School in Oakland County for recording their version of the dance.

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