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In Rhode Island there is a war being waged over a father-daughter dance. This surprises me on a number of levels. What surprises me most, though, is my gut reaction to the story: repulsion. 

Here are the CliffsNotes to the story: a local PTA organized a father-daughter dance and a mother-son baseball game. A local single mom (with a daughter) complained and the dance was brought to the attention to the state ACLU. The ACLU claimed that the dance violated Title IX rules. Local parents and politicians thought this was ridiculous. The dance went ahead.

Let me tell you what I think is ridiculous. I think having an event that doesn’t recognize the complex home dynamic of most families is ridiculous. A father-daughter dance ostracizes girls with fathers who are away from home. Perhaps the fathers live in another state or country. Perhaps the fathers are deployed.  Perhaps they have passed away. Perhaps, for whatever reason, they are not involved in their daughters’ lives. Perhaps the girl has two moms. Whatever the reason, labeling an activity as “father-daughter” does nothing but make 33% of the girls in the class* feel ashamed of their home situation.

This issue really shouldn’t be coming up in the year 2012. Single parent homes and homes of same gender parents are not new. School districts and PTAs should be sensitive to these families and work to include them in events. Why not have a parent-child dance? This encompasses all the students in one event and doesn’t bring attention to anyone who lives in a single parent (or two parents of the same gender) home. It is a simple, innocuous solution to an insulting problem.

The single mother who initiated the complaint ended up going to the dance with her daughter. Good for her. That’s what I would have done. I also would have sat down with my daughter and had a good, long chat about the closed mindedness of this PTA, making sure that she was proud of her family just the way it was.


*This percentage assumes there is an evenly balanced number of boys and girls in the class.