School District Bans Father-Daughter Dances After Single Mom Complains

In an effort to comply with state laws about gender discrimination, a Rhode Island school district has banned father-daughter dances and mother-son baseball games after a single mom complained that her daughter wasn't able to attend a dance.

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The mother filed a complaint with the Rhode Island branch of the American Civil Liberties Union last May, saying that her child felt excluded from the dance because she did not have a father figure to take her. The dance was a longstanding event run by a parent-teacher organization.

"I think when schools tell girls 'You love dances' and boys 'You love baseball games,' I think that is going too far," Rhode Island ACLU executive director Steven Brown told talk-radio station WPRO-FM. "That is the whole point of having laws and policies to say public schools should not be the business of really encouraging such blatant stereotypes about what girls like and what boys like."

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But some parents say the events were about tradition and family bonding, not gender roles.

"I'm outraged. My family looks forward to this," Lisa Shaljian Mancini told WBZ-TV. "I have three daughters in the school system, and they love this event."

One father -- who also happens to be a Republican candidate for State Senate in Rhode Island -- calls the ban is "an assault on traditional family values."

"For generations, we've had mother-daughter, father-son events," Sean Gately told Fox News. He found out about the ban after an open house earlier this month at his son's school, and brought it to the attention of the local media this week. "My wife was looking forward to taking our son to the annual mother-son event."

Though the complaint was filed with the ALCU in May and the school district resolved it in August, Gately has made the issue part of his election campaign. "I do believe that once this happens in Cranston, the ACLU will pursue every other school district in Rhode Island," he told Fox News.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the ALCU's Brown called the controversy "old news."

"The school district recognized that in the 21st Century, public schools have no business fostering the notion that girls prefer to go to formal dances while boys prefer baseball games," the statement read. "PTOs remain free to hold family dances and other events, but the time has long since passed for public school resources to encourage stereotyping form the days of Ozzie and Harriet. Not every girl today is interested in growing up to be Cinderella -- not even in Cranston."

A message left for Brown by Yahoo! Shine was not immediately returned on Wendesday.

Title IX -- the federal law against sex discrimination in schools -- has exceptions for gender-specific parent-child events, but Rhode Island's gender discrimination law does not. Over the summer, the school district's lawyer decided that the dance and baseball game needed to be "open to family and students of both genders" in order to comply with state law.

"I acknowledge that many of these events have long traditions and for many parents, these types of gender-based events are not an issue," school Superintendent Judith A. Lundsten wrote in a letter sent to partner organizations in August. "However, this is a public school system and under no circumstances should we be isolating any chid from full participation in school activities and events based on gender. Please be all-inclusive when planning your events."

"We're going to follow the law," Lundsten told WBZ-TV. "I think that, as a community, we'll figure out if we need to move forward and have the law changed."

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung said that he thinks the ban is a result of a "too limited, too narrow read" of Title IX and Rhode Island state law.

"That is what is most frustrating about the entire scenario right now," Cranston Mayor Allan Fung told WBZ-TV in Boston "Because of one complaint, many children, many sons, many daughters might not have those memories that we all cherish growing up."

The ban only affects gender-specific events held at school, even if they're organized by outside groups. An all-inclusive "parent-child dance," for example, would not be a problem, School Committee member Janice Ruggieri told the Associated Press.

What do you think? Fair enough, or political correctness gone too far?

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