Let the Kids Dance

THE big news out of Purdy, Mo., brings to mind one of our all-time favorite Gene Kelly numbers. The one in ``Singin' in the Rain'' where this wide-eyed kid with his goofy little cardboard suitcase comes to the big city and declares he's just ``Gotta Dance!'' The kids in Purdy (pop., 928) can certainly relate to that. The school board wants to keep the 19th-century law that forbids dancing on school property, and it's now become a church-state federal case with big-gun civil libertarians from out of town all involved.

So far, it's Kids 1, School Board zip. Federal District Judge Russell Clark says the Constitution has been violated, even though town officials insist there's nothing religious about the policy. Now it's up to a three-judge panel to decide whether the juniors and seniors can go ahead with their first-ever school prom.

In a way, it's nice to hear of a town more worried about dancing than about cocaine peddlers dealing crack from the school parking lot. And let's face it, we are, no doubt, talking more about ``Dirty Dancing''-type moves here than Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds ricocheting around a sound stage. Parents don't want X-rated rock lyrics and all that in rural Missouri, any more than they do in Boston or Seattle.

But hey, wouldn't it be better to have the Purdy kids dancing in their own school gym than headed off to the bright lights of Joplin or Springfield? Besides, when a kid's gotta dance, he's gotta dance. Let them boogie, we say.

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