‘Grinding’ a hornet’s nest

Published 9:38 pm Friday, October 23, 2009

When Evelyn Salasse emailed a letter to the editor this week, she probably had no idea of the hornet’s nest that she would be stirring.

Her letter, published in Wednesday’s edition of the Suffolk News-Herald, told the story of her niece’s disappointment with the conduct of some of her fellow students during the Nansemond River High School Homecoming dance. The girl left the dance early after watching other teens “grinding” and performing other sexually provocative acts on the dance floor.

Early commenters at suffolknewsherald.com were somewhat supportive of Ms. Salasse and her disgust over the behavior she heard described to her and watched in an online video her niece had shown her.

By late Wednesday the tide had begun to turn, and by Thursday, there was a veritable tidal wave of dissent as the link to the online letter was forwarded from one NRHS student to another. By Friday afternoon, the letter had 130 responses, the vast majority of which were from students, many of whom took the step of identifying themselves in their posts.

Frankly, we love the exposure. As one adult poster noted, it’s refreshing to see teenagers getting involved and voicing their opinions on a news item. Too often, teens are silent about important local issues, even when those issues directly affect their future.

On the other hand, neither parents nor administrators have much to be proud of when it comes to most of the actual comments that have been posted. Many reflect a fundamental lack of respect for elders, a mob mentality, a misunderstanding of basic logic and a distressing lack of command of the English language.

Not to mention a disheartening ignorance of the moral, psychological and spiritual damage that is so often the result of early and unchecked sexuality.

Reading many of the responses, I don’t know whether to be more saddened by the erosion of cultural mores or by the plummeting standards of English usage, especially among those who tout their GPAs and their school’s performance on standards of learning tests.

It’s no surprise that social standards erode from one generation to another, but I have been shocked at the level of disrespect shown to an adult who was guilty only of expressing her alarm and disapproval of the activities that even her detractors admit took place at the dance.

Even more shocking are the reports from teachers I know that this sort of behavior is rampant even in their personal interactions with students. At the risk of triteness, I shudder to think how my father would have reacted if I’d been so arrogantly disrespectful.

And that’s really the point.

One might expect the parents of NRHS students to be involved by now, calling administrators to find out what happened at the dance and checking to see what their kids are saying online.

The silence from that quarter, however, has been deafening. Perhaps that silence is its own answer to the question of how things have gotten to be where they are.