Published September 21, 2012
Mom and son baseball games. Father and daughter dances. Outlawed. Banned in Rhode Island. What’s next: no apple pie? Oh wait, some schools have already banned cupcakes. But I digress. Let’s get to the story at hand.
The school system in Cranston, Rhode Island has determined that traditional father-daughter and mother-son activities put on by the school are in violation of the state’s gender discrimination law. Now, I’m a big supporter of Title IX, the federal legislation banning gender discrimination in schools. I want my daughter to have every opportunity – in academics, in sports, in everything – as my son. But Title IX has rational exemptions to the rule, and father daughter dances fall neatly within that exemption. After all, these events are meant to encourage and support our children. To foster and encourage parents to spend an evening with their child at a school endorsed event. So, Federal law absolutely allows for dances and baseball games.
Enter the ACLU. The organization claims that, under Rhode Island law, there is no exemption for any gender based activities in schools. In fact, the Rhode Island law can be interpreted to be broader than the federal law. And the school district is, understandably, scared about racking up big attorney’s fees in defending a lawsuit on this. Hence the ban.
Rhode Island law makers and school officials are working to figure a way out of this. And the solution is simple. Pass a state resolution to change state law to mirror Title IX, and allow “traditional yet inclusive events.” Or, even simpler, just call the dances something else, like “family night,” or “children’s choice,” so that everyone is included and welcomed. And everyone should be included and welcomed.
But can the ACLU really believe that this is a good use of their resources to threaten a lawsuit over what is fundamentally a positive event? Some of my most cherished memories of school days with my children are those mother and daughter, and mother and son events. I like to think my son even enjoyed the square dancing night, and my daughter didn’t cringe at having me there at her soccer nights. I may be engaged in wishful thinking.
In Georgia, a family is being sued by their homeowners association because their 4-year-old girl’s background playhouse is too pink. Not because the playhouse is dangerous, and could attract other children to a dangerous structure. But because it is pink. I wonder if there is some gender discrimination going on there. I wonder if the ACLU will file a countersuit.
It looks like the state of Rhode Island will now use precious tax payer dollars to draft and pass a resolution to allow all inclusive school dances and baseball games for school kids and their parents. I just hope they do so in time for the kids to enjoy the dance.