Metro

Father-daughter dance ban sparks controversy

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, September 20, 2012

 

To promote his ongoing protest of the Cranston School District’s ban on “father-daughter” dances and other gender-exclusive events, Republican State Senate candidate Sean Gately released a written statement Monday and appeared on the program “Fox & Friends” yesterday to voice his intent to lift the ban if elected to office.

Gately, who was interviewed in a segment of the program called “PC Police,” said he found out about the ban a week ago when his wife learned the annual “mother-son” dance at their son’s school would not occur as a result of the recent ban.

The restriction was implemented last May when Judith Lundsten, then-assistant superintendent and now the current superintendent, met with school officials in response to a letter from Steven Brown, executive director for the Rhode Island affiliate American Civil Liberties Union, and Carolyn Mark, president of the state chapter of National Organization for Women. The letter specifically objected to an upcoming “Me and My Guy Dinner Dance” hosted by a local school’s parent-teacher organization, which was simultaneously planning a trip to a minor league baseball game for male students and their mothers.

School officials informed the single mother who filed the complaint with the local ACLU that she could attend the dance with her daughter, but they did not change the name of the dance or the baseball event.

“Public schools have no business fostering the notion that girls prefer to go to formal dances while boys prefer baseball games,” Brown said in a statement responding to Gately’s press release. 

“I just think that this is the local ACLU kind of bullying our school system,” Gately said. If he wins the election Nov. 6, he said he will advocate an amendment to the state’s Title IX law so that it does not prohibit gender-specific events for parents and children, an exemption that already exists in the federal law.

He added that the ACLU’s Rhode Island affiliate has a precedent for “taking advantage of communities like (Cranston) that don’t have a lot of cash on hand.”

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung spoke out in opposition to the ban in his own statement released the day after Gately’s. “I have been flooded with calls from angry parents,” he said. “In the zeal to protect people who feel they are being disenfranchised, this policy has completely denied our children of one of the most cherished traditions in their school experience.”