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Letter to Dr. Kneuppel

In this letter to Dr. Knueppel, then-principal of Tenafly High, Jon-Erik defends school dances after a student is found at one of them with drugs. 

September 25, 1975
Dear Dr. Kneuppel:
I am writing in regard to the Senior Class' September 19 dance and our ensuing Halloween Dance November 1st.  I realize your position concerning the relatively minor difficulties we had at our past dance.  I would like to emphasize, however, that any truly harmful repercussions of the dance were indeed minor.  Of course, the presence of hard drugs at our dance is not to be taken lightly, but you must realize that we are positive that it was in the possession of only one student.  We may speculate that perhaps a small percentage of others attending the dance were involved with these more serious drugs.  When one takes into consideration that there were upwards of 300-400 students attending the dance, the situation is not in actuality as detrimental to the general student body as first presumed.  Drugs of this nature have been present in Tenafly for many years and probably will be for many more.  They have come into use by a relatively small group of students and I see no reason for the small percentage of users to increase due to our sponsoring the dances.
Aside from this disturbance there were no other incidents that would necessitate administrative involvement.  We made use of student sentinels and student patrollers which, under the circumstances, was relatively effective.  There were no fights, no thefts and no vandalism.  Though our class had a few difficulties screening ticket holders and pricing the soda, our dance went extremely smooth and we earned a reasonable amount of money taking into account it was our first activity of the year.  I've learned to increase the price of the soda.
In regard to our upcoming dance November 1, I have acquired a great deal of insight for managing a dance from our September 19th evening.  I have learned which students are responsible and capable of being student sentinels, where and in what capacity sentinels are most effective, what age groups present the most behavioral disturbances, and what type of band encourages drinking and drug abuse.  Consequently, I have taken the following steps in planning the November 1 dance to keep disturbances at an even lower level than they were at the September 19 dance.  I have increased our hourly student sentinel force to now include six sentinels per hour.  One guard to monitor each of the four entrances and two to patrol the dance area, smoking room, halls and bathrooms.  I have found peer pressure to be the most effective tool in controlling the students.  In addition to the student sentinels, the customary four policemen will be on duty.
Because of Blue Turk's reputation as a concert band, it encourages the adverse actions we were trying to avoid.  Consequently, the band will be composed of students within the school that are relatively unknown and do not have a reputation similar to that of Blue Turk.  Because of the general immaturity of the junior high students that tend to attend the high school dances and create minor, but numerous disturbances, and a significant percentage of vandalism, we will permit only Juniors and Seniors to attend the dance.  Juniors and especially Seniors are generally more mature and concerned about the class' welfare and will conduct themselves accordingly.  Finally, we will require that each student attending the dance wear a costume.  This will necessitate a certain degree of thought and effort, eliminating that small element of the student body which attends certain dances for the purpose of drinking, abusing drugs or vandalizing the building.
I understand your decision to prohibit concerts, for I realize the reputation of concerts may in some cases encourage drinking and drug abuse.  Terminating dances, however, which when managed correctly, rarely encourage this behavior, will seriously demean class spirit and unity, as well as deprive many students of the opportunity to become involved in a very popular, gratifying and beneficial activity.  An extremely large number of students are involved in the organization of a dance, many of whom have no other function in the school where they are needed and where they are a success.  I do all I can to involve as many of these people in the organization of dances as possible.  The more dances we have, the more we can involve them.  For example, we require at least 24 students just to handle security.  Hence, in keeping with Dr. Sawitz's comments at our recent Cabinet Meeting, by having numerous dances and involving as many students as possible, who feel they are failures, we are enabling these people to attain a sense of importance, while relieving them of the need to vent their self-dissatisfaction through drinking, vandalism and drug abuse.
In conclusion, I feel it is imperative that you weigh the pros and cons of cancelling this and other dances and activities.  By cancelling the dance, we will be depriving many people of the opportunity to prove their worth, thus forcing them to achieve attention and acceptance by some other (probably destructive) means.  Drug abusers will merely find another location to pollute their bodies.  If you approve the dance, however, the majority of the students will greatly profit from the experience of being an important and successful person in the CLASS OF '76.  I am firmly convinced that this is the first step toward tansforming this disruptive minority into one of an ever decreasing membership.
I would like to schedule a meeting with you, Mr. Mullin and Mr. Luther to discuss these proposals and the prospects of the Halloween Dance November 1st as soon as possible.
Jack Hexum
Sr. Class President
cc:  Mr. J.P. Mullin
      Mr. R. Luther

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