A school district in Rhode Island has ended the traditional father-daughter dance because the longtime tradition violated the state’s gender discrimination law.
Judith Lundsten, an assistant school superintendent in Cranston, tells Fox News the move came in response to a complaint from a single mother after her daughter wasn’t allowed to attend a father-daughter dance.
“The parent felt it was not appropriate and filed a complaint with the ACLU,” she said.
The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the district demanding that all father-daughter and mother-son events be cancelled.
Lundsten said school attorneys found while federal gender discrimination laws exempt such events, Rhode Island’s does not.
“At this point, the law states that we cannot have these gender-specific type activities,” Lundsten told Fox News. “
She said the school district is going to try and work with lawmakers to amend the law – but until that time “We are following the law.”
“The community has a great deal of concern about this issue,” she said. “Certainly I understand that times have changed and people have different feelings about this.”
“I think it’s a shame,” parent Sean Gately told Fox News. “It’s an assault on traditional family values.”
Gately, who is running for state senator, learned of the ban at an open-house for their second-grade son. Another parent noticed the annual father-daughter was not on the calendar.
“For generations we’ve had mother-daughter, father-son events,” he said. “My wife was looking forward to taking our son to the annual mother-son event.”
So Gately decided to start making some telephone calls. He learned that Rhode Island’s law is based on Title IX. That law actually carves out specific exemptions for events like father-daughter dances. However, the Rhode Island general law did not.
And until the law is changed – the dances are banned.
“We do believe that once this happens in Cranston, the ACLU will pursue every other school district in Rhode Island,” he said.
Gately said he’s going to miss those special moments – marked by longstanding memories and pictures.
“Noting made me more satisfied than when I got to pin my daughter’s first corsage on her lapel when she bought a pretty dress,” he said.
“These are important traditions that we have here as a country and as a community,” he added. “The attempt to try and take them away from us is an atrocity.”
But Lundsten said the incident could serve as a learning experience for the community.
“It’s part of having a health debate about our country and how we can do better,” she said.
With reporting from the Associated Press