Another tradition has been jeopardized.
The Cranston School District in Rhode Island has ended father-daughter dances and mother-son baseball games.
The change came after a Cranston single mother, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), wrote a letter of complaint that her daughter was being discriminated from attending the father-daughter dance because her father was not in her life. The ACLU also claimed that the activities violated the state’s gender discrimination law.
Federal law prohibits gender-discrimination in public school activities, but does make exceptions for “father-daughter” and “mother-son” activities. Rhode Island however does not make that exception, and the Cranston School Committee is now asking state lawmakers to make that change.
The ACLU pointed out that these two events promote gender stereotypes, assuming that girls would want to go to dances while boys would want to go to baseball games. They claim that “these stereotypes simply do not hold any force, nor should a school be attempting to promote them.”
These dances are a long-standing tradition in Cranston. If no one ever wanted them to happen, the events would never have been planned in the first place. There are girls who like going to dances as well as boys who enjoy baseball games, and these children should not be excluded from this tradition because other children don’t want to go.
I support these dances because father-daughter relationships are important. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, “24 million children in America—one out of three—live in biological father-absent homes.” Children with absent fathers are linked to higher rates of poverty and behavioral problems.
As a society, we should support father-daughter relationships. We should publicly celebrate these relationships, praising fathers who provide paternal support and helping children who lack that support.
The removal of father-daughter dances and mother-son baseball games only eludes to a larger issue worth consideration.
Does exclusion always equal discrimination?
If you think about it, exclusion occurs all the time in school functions. Students’ participation in sports teams is based on ability level. Should we consider that discrimination? Students are often placed into different level classes based on academic ability. Should that be considered discrimination?
Schools are allowed to hold events as long as “opportunities for reasonably comparable activities shall be provided for students of the other sex,” according to federal law. In this case, students of either gender are provided with an activity.
However, there is no established basis of discrimination based on who a person’s parents are and whether or not they are in that person’s life. While a girl who doesn’t have her father in her life may feel excluded from attending a “father-daughter” dance, she is not being stopped from attending.
The definition of discrimination is being blurred.
We are not all the same. We do not all do the same things. We do not always have to be included.