Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

Todd Hartley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

I have a confession to make that may come as a shock to those of you who also grew up in the ’80s: I have never seen the movie “Footloose.” I know that it’s about rebellious city kid Kevin Bacon dancing away his anger and frustration after moving to a small town where dancing and rock music are illegal.

And I think I can guess the ending: Kevin Bacon gets a machine gun, kills a bunch of communists, frees his oppressed classmates and then learns that he’s actually a ghost. But all I’ve witnessed of the movie are the scenes of Mr. Bacon angrily cavorting and prancing that made it into the video for the Kenny Loggins title track.

Part of my having not seen the movie is a function of timing. I’ve just never gotten around to watching it, but that’s no excuse. I could certainly have made the time by now if I’d really wanted to. The truth is that I’ve just never been that interested in seeing Kevin Bacon cavort and prance. That’s not typically what I’m looking for in a movie. The whole concept just seems a little, well …

Anyway, I’m happy to report that I no longer need to see “Footloose,” because a nearly identical situation is playing itself out right now in the town of Findlay, Ohio, where teenagers, dancing, hand-holding and a taboo senior prom have converged to ignite a firestorm of controversy the likes of which haven’t been seen since at least a few days ago.

At the center of the controversy is 17-year-old Tyler Frost, a student at Findlay’s ultra-conservative Heritage Christian School. Frost’s girlfriend, a student at a public high school in town, invited Frost to her senior prom, and, naturally, he accepted. This, however, violated Heritage Christian’s student conduct policy, which prohibits dancing, hand-holding, rock music and what a passage from the Bible refers to as “youthful lusts.”

To attend his girlfriend’s prom, Frost had to have Tim England, the principal of Heritage Christian, sign a form saying he could go. England signed the form but then immediately notified Frost that he would be suspended for the rest of the year if he went, as the prohibition on fun of any kind apparently extends to wherever Heritage Christian students might find themselves.

Undeterred, Frost channeled his inner Kevin Bacon and defiantly went to the prom anyway, where he was photographed ” gasp! ” holding hands with his girlfriend. Principal England, for his part, stayed true to his word and immediately suspended Frost, who will now not be allowed to take his final exams on time and graduate with the rest of his class.

Seemingly within hours of England’s fateful decision, Frost became a media sensation, with an appearance on “The Early Show” to tell his side of the story and websites such as (I kid you not) suddenly appearing on the Internet. In no time at all, the young teen from Ohio went from obscurity to being the poster boy for fighting for your right to dance platonically with your best gal.

Sensing that he had to do something to quell the controversy, England posted a letter to school parents on Heritage Christian’s website, stating, in part, “The question as I see it is, should a Christian place themselves at an event where young ladies will have low-cut dresses and be dancing in them?”

Now, I’m no Christian, but I think the answer to that question is an obvious and resounding “duh!” High school boys of any religious affiliation should place themselves at events with young ladies in low-cut dresses as often as possible, lest their heads explode when they get to college and encounter provocatively dressed co-eds.

No, the real question in this situation is, should Heritage Christian continue with a Puritanical policy that has seen them have to suspend fully 20 percent of the school’s senior class? (OK, fine. I’ll fess up. There are only five seniors enrolled at Heritage Christian, and only Frost got suspended, but still.)

The answer as I see it is, yes, Heritage Christian should absolutely continue with its no-dancing policy. Sure, it’s an outdated and thoroughly stupid notion, but if kids were allowed to dance wherever, whenever and with whomever they pleased, what would all the rebellious Kevin Bacon wannabes out there have to fight against? Face it, we need places like Heritage Christian so religious teens can feel like they’re acting up too without actually doing anything bad.