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Whitney Young dean dances his way into becoming YouTube star


Updated: October 23, 2012 9:35AM

When John Fanning, the dean of students at Whitney Young High School, found himself in the middle of a senior prank last week, he could have handed out detentions. But instead, he danced.

In a video posted on YouTube and Reddit, Fanning is challenged to a dance battle as part of a senior class prank. With students pounding on tables and chairs, Fanning starts dancing an Irish jig. The video received nearly 200,000 views by Tuesday morning.

And the crowd went wild.

“There was this weird kind of buzz that they were going to pull a prank, so I stood in the lunchroom to see that it wasn’t anything crazy,” Fanning said of the after-school incident. “I could get angry and make everyone leave the area, but instead I started dancing, and they enjoyed it.”

As for Fanning’s fancy footwork, the Rogers Park native honed his legitimate Irish dancing skills at St. Ignatius Catholic Church while growing up.

“Like every other kid who grew up in Rogers Park in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I went to dance classes after church,” said Fanning.

Even though Fanning was hamming it up for the students, he insists his hijinks weren’t planned.

“Honestly, I didn’t know what they were gonna do. It’s not like I planned it or it was spur of the moment,” he said. “I had some idea they were taping it. The kids tape everything they do these days.”

But why did Fanning choose to engage in a dance battle with a student?

“I’ve known him for four years. He’s a little goofy, and the only response to that is to do something equally goofy,” said Fanning. “It was a harmless prank. We always try to encourage them to do things in a controlled environment. That way, students have a way to be creative and be individuals without causing harm to themselves or anyone else.”

Fanning said other senior pranks have included placing 500 cups of water in front of the door to his office.

“The school is so academically-focused, and we understand that kids need to let off steam,” Fanning said. “It can become very stressful for students, and we’re glad they found a healthy way to reduce stress.”

What’s next for the dancing dean of students? Fanning has a Skype interview planned with Good Morning America. No word on whether he’ll break out another jig.

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