Footloose Redux: 33 High School Students Suspended for 'Twerking' Video

Community says school administrators overreacted.

Photo Credit: YouTube / NBC 7

High school officials suspended 33 students for participating in a “twerking” video, inciting backlash from students and parents who say the school overreacted. Seniors in question may also be barred from attending prom or walking at graduation.

Students from a media class at Scripps Ranch High School shot and starred in the video, just under a minute long, and posted it to YouTube. The short film shows groups of students doing handstands on a wall and “twerking,” while other students stand or kneel alone and bob their heads to rapper YG’s “Pop It.”

For the uninitiated, twerking is a dance move that involves shaking ones’ buttocks up and down to achieve a jiggly effect. As NBC 7 San Diego reported, the suspected students might have violated the school’s sexual harassment policy, which prohibits “verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature made by someone from or in the educational setting.”

Scripps Ranch students rushed to the support of their suspended classmates, creating the hashtag #freethetwerkteam. One supportive student tweeted, “Suspended, banned from prom, and prevented from walking at graduation all because of an awesome twerk video. I don't understand.” Another student was a bit more critical of the video, but still maintained that administrators overreacted, tweeting, “Okay even though scripps sucked at twerking suspending them and taking away their prom was really stupid. Like come on it's just a dance.”

Parents agreed. Mark Silverman told NBC 7 that “I just think it’s not that big of a deal. It was just expression, maybe overly expressive I guess.” Another parent said the school should’ve used the opportunity as a lesson on the permanence of digital posts in the Internet age.

The district spokesperson, Jack Brandais, refused to comment on the incident, instead sending NBC 7 instructions regarding the suspension appeal process.

At least one of the students involved posted about his punishment on social media. The student claims to have received $20 dollars from his father “for getting suspended.” Suspension doesn’t seem to have hampered the student’s passion for dance however. Taking to Twitter, the faceless YouTube star announced, “Suspended for twerking. What do I do? Twerk. At the beach. I twerk at the beach.”

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Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @stevenjhsieh.