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. This past May, the mother filed a complaint with the Rhode Island branch of the ACLU because her daughter did not have a male figure to escort her to the dance. Ironically the dance in question was the longest running event ran by the PTA. To resolve the issue and comply with the state’s gender discrimination laws, the ACLU banned gender specific activities, such as the dance and mother-son baseball.

“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.

Of course many parents are up in arms over the decision. Most have cited that the events are not about gender, but are a long-standing tradition for family bonding in their community. “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.”

The decision also has one Republican Senate candidate outraged, especially since his son is being directly affected. In good ole Republican fashion, he calls the ban an “assault on traditional family values”. “For generations, we’ve had mother-daughter, father-son events. My wife was looking forward to taking our son to the annual mother-son event” Sean Gately told Fox News.

The ACLU’s Steven Brown released a statement on Tuesday:

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. PTOs (parent teacher organizations) remain free to hold family dances and other events, but the time has long since passed for public school resources to encourage stereotyping from the days of Ozzie and Harriet. Not every girl today is interested in growing up to be Cinderella — not even in Cranston.

Because of the Title IX law, which is the federal law against sex discrimination in schools, plenty of kids will have to go without the tradition of a father-daughter dance or mother-son baseball games. But this law does not exclude the school from having all-inclusive parent-child activities. The mayor of Cranston feels the law is too narrowly defined and is subjective. “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.”

Do you think a town with a standing tradition should be punished because of one child? How else do you think this issue could be resolved?

  • Ms. Information

    Pathetic. Lord please don’t let this mom be black.

  • Erin

    I feel like if that one child is unable to attend, then he/she is unable to attend or should be able to attend with a fathet-figure even if they don’t have a biological one present. I don’t see why everyone in the town must be punished because of one complaint. I’m sure this mother isn’t the only single parent in that school district. It makes it seem like the people that actually are in a two-parent household are somehow the ones in the wrong. Also, I think it’s funny how they’re trying to cover their true motive for banning the events by stating that gender-specific events are wrong when in reality they’re banning it because a single parent was upset. SMH.

  • Moni

    As a lawyer (and advocate for the rule of law), I applaud this decision. Laws should be applied fairly and evenly across the board, even in the instances when we don’t like the outcome. I think most of us would agree that Title IX is a great law that has hugely benefited women in particular, especially our access to and participation in athletics. Most of us would agree that this is a good thing. Therefore, we just have to accept that the minority of the time there will be results that we don’t like in complying with a mostly positive law. The school doesn’t get to decide when they want to comply and when the don’t. The law is the law. Although there is only one child in the lawsuit, I’m sure there are other children affected by the law. The whole framing of this question is wrong, because it’s not a punishment to force someone to comply with the law. It’s like white people back in the day saying that their kids are being punished by being forced to attend school with Negros. Segregation was another long standing tradition…

  • Smilez_920

    This is going to far. To me having a mother son baseball game actually breaks the whole ” gender thing because the boys are playing sports with their mom.

    People really make childhood harder then it has to be. So now all the kids have to suffer because your child has no father. Thats not their fault. Sometimes as a kid you miss out. Now maybe you can encourage the PTA to keep the father daughter dance, but still allow fatherless attendees to come with their mothers if they want. But those other kids shouldnt have to suffer because of one fatherless kid.

    What next ” parent complains that daughter can’t go to all boys school” smh parents these days man,

  • Ms. Information

    So other people should get punished because one person’s life happens not to comply with the others…and bringing race into it dispels your whole argument…just like a lawyer.

  • C

    People like her annoy me. One, I feel like this is a thing where she just wanted to make a fuss, and two, it isn’t other kid’s fault that her daughter doesn’t have a father in her life. For whatever reason her child’s father is not present (whether because he is not responsible or because of death), and however hurtful, she needs to help her child realize that it is a part of reality.

    Basically, it comes down to the fact that her child can’t participate, so nobody will, and shes trying to cover it up by crying sex discrimination.

  • Smilez_920

    It’s really not that serious. These kids are in elemenatary school. I don’t think they should change the theme. It’s a father daughter dance but if the whole family would like to come they are welcomed.

    I’m sorry the law isn’t always right. And this is just petty. Now they could opt to have another event that includes everyone. But to me to actually sue the school over it is silly.

  • isolde3

    What a bunch of cry babies! Just change the event from mother/son baseball and father/daughter dance to parent/child baseball and dance. There, problem solved.

  • isolde3

    “The whole framing of this question is wrong, because it’s not a punishment to force someone to comply with the law. It’s like white people back in the day saying that their kids are being punished by being forced to attend school with Negros. Segregation was another long standing tradition…”


    All of this, honey. All. Of. This.

  • Mr. Man

    I suppose when this child grows up she’s going to complain to HR that they should ban ‘bring your child to work day’ if she doesn’t happen to have any…Thanks mom, nice training..

  • isolde3

    “Bring your child to work day” isn’t gender discriminatory, not to mention that a private sector (assuming you’re referring to a private sector company that the child will grow up to work for) is not a government funded public elementary school. So your analogy isn’t analogous.

  • Mss.K

    As far as I’m concerned, the law is made for the quality of life for its citizens; beyond that it has no purpose. This decision right here, foolish because it allowed one bitter mother to blame society for her current situation.
    Good parenting would have said: let me explain to my child why their father is not in the picture and that it doesn’t make you less special.
    Good parenting would have said: Since my daughter has no males around, why don’t I ask for permission to take her.
    Crazy ass parenting says: f that. If she can’t go no one can.

    There was no parent during segregation that fought to close all-white schools because their black children couldn’t attend. That wasn’t the point.

  • http://twitter.com/gennatay Gina (@gennatay)

    This is stupid and has nothing to do with gender bias. The town should privatize the event and get sponsors. The other children/families should not have to suffer.

  • [email protected]

    Only in America. Was a lawsuit the best option in resolving this issue? You mean to tell me this mother could find no other way to come to happy medium with the school district. I feel for the kids who got their outfits and were happily expecting spending time with their parent and having some fun away from home.

  • LA

    While I see what you’re saying about Title IX, I think this might be a bit of a reach. These activities are sponsored by the PTA. If this PTA is anything like the one I had at my elementary school, it’s a seperate entity from the school and acquires it’s own funding sources through various fundraisers. If that is the case, then the PTA is not receiving federal funds directly or indirectly from the school and thus is not subject to Title IX.

  • lol

    this was the first thing that came to my mind.smh

  • Moviegirl

    Here’s an idea Parent/Child dance. Boom, issue resolved.

  • BriaAire

    As a child who grew up in a single parent household, I was never able to attend those father/daughter dances. The radio station in Atlanta would host a big father/daughter dinner every year, but I couldn’t attend. Sure I had Uncles who loved me just as dearly, but it was nothing like being there with the man who help create you.

    Since I couldn’t attend, my mom would always make sure we had our own fun day (when I was young of course). I remember one time going out of town with my mom to see Doug Funny on ice, and that same weekend was our school’s father/ daughter event. My mom didn’t want me to have to sit around the house and wait for my friends who did attend, and I thank her for this. My friends thought I had the better event after all.

    So to this mom: Make your own event, and spend time with your own child, you don’t need a reason to do that!

  • Smilez_920

    This has nothin to do with gender. The mother was not complaining about her child not beig able to play in the baseball game. She was complain because ther was no father / male figure to take the child to the dance. I rather have the mother say ” listen they are different types of families, not all kids have a mom and dad , can we do more events that focus on family as a whole”.

    This has nothing to do about gender. I know it’s hard to believe but a lot of little girls like to dress up. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just like a lot if little boys like to run around and vice versa. You want equality have a daddy daughter team vs a mommy son team or w/e but stop crying about it. Elementary school kids just want to have fun.

    And please don’t compare this to segregation , it is no where close. A single parent daughter not beig able to go to a school dance is not the same as a black child not being able to go to good school and learn like evey other child, be able to drink at any water fountain , being able to smile at a white woman with out beig killed, all because of the color of his/her skin. So cut it.

    And before Someone says pain is pain and discrimination is discrimnation, think about this.

    Getting poked by a needle causes pain being hit by a MAC truck cause pain, but I think one does more damage than the other .

  • https://twitter.com/TheKMichel K. Michel

    My opinion won’t be popular this time around, but I do agree that “Father-Daughter & Mother-Son activities” are, absolutely, gender discriminatory (and have little place in schools today). Still, I don’t think they were meant to be that way.

    If a little girl doesn’t have a father, then she can’t participate in any of these events at all (at least not like how girls with fathers can). Now, if this girl is African-American then most likely, she’ll be seeing a lot of girls like her sitting on the sidelines for events like this …school events no less.

    African-American boys? Statistically, they’ll still get to participate because most boys are raised by their mothers anyway. But most African-American single mothers won’t have the time. Even beyond this, Black kids in America today already have everything going against them in terms of having healthy self-esteems. So when a school decides to have events, they need to understand that every single person needs to have a CHANCE of being included.

    If the chess club is having a school dance (they ALWAYS have the best dances), and I’m not on the chess club then that’s fine. If I want to go to that dance, I can just elect to join the chess club. That’s what I mean by having that chance.

    Undoubtedly, it’s the Black girls who suffer the most from this and that alone is good enough for me to agree with the banning of such activities. Seeking legal action is a bit much unless the school(s) weren’t taking the claims seriously.

    We don’t know the race of the fatherless child in this article, and I’m not suggesting that the child is African-American. But this issue holds immense problems for African-American children, and especially the daughters. I don’t need them to be crazy when they reach adulthood. We already have that for days.

  • victoria

    My former school changed Mother’s Day to… well it was undecided?!? We can’t say Parent’s Day b/c some kids are raised by grandparents, aunts, or other guardians. The principal actually considered calling it guardians day.

    This is madness.

  • victoria

    Or let’s just keep the father/daughter dance and add an addl parent/child dance. My father was AWOL, but I dont want others to be denied this bonding experience simply b/c I didnt have a father. Those who have a father in the home shouldnt have to be denied certain experiences b/c others have absentee dads.

  • Smilez_920

    I get what your saying but that has nothing to do with the school. That has to do with the father sense or responsibility and the mothers choice of who she lays with.

    This is not about gender. They had something for the girls and something for the boys. Sometimes in life you get left out. Now if the mother came and said ” she thought they needed more activities that included all different types of family structures” then cool. But she tried to play the gender card which had nothing to do with it. But to take away a dance or baseball game because one child has no father is crazy. If they want to turn it into a family dance that’s cool. But to take it away is silly, same with the baseball game.

    I hope this parent is just as involved in her child’s school work as she is about a father daughter dance.

    Also it’s going to take more than canceling a father daughter dance to heal any wounds from having a missing father in that house. I mean is the school not going to be allowed to let the kids make mother and father day cards in arts and crafts because someone is missing a parent.

  • Smilez_920

    This lady is not arguing about that. She is upset because she has no male figure to take her daughter to the dance. Because of that she feels there should be no dance. I doubt there are secruity guards standing at the door telling kids they can’t come to the event.

    Let’s remember these are elementary school kids. How many little boys are runninto get dressed up for a dance. Yes little girl like sports she could have made the suggestion that they have a family day baseball game, or a father daughter baseball game.

    Her beef isn’t with the event it’s that she can’t participate.

    And I hope that miter and child show up to every ” non gender specific event ” without one complaint.

    And before anyone goes there I am all for gender equality. But that’s are children, just let them have fun.

  • isolde3

    Nope. It’s not a reach. There’s a cease and desist letter in the source article written by that school district’s superintendent to the PTA that admits that the school district could be held accountable for facilitating the events. The PTA advertises the events on school websites and bulletin boards, sends out notices to the student body, etc., as representatives of an organization directly affiliated with the school. Hence the term P.T.A. The Cranston, R.I. school district has lawyers that have already determined that the events need to be changed to avoid being sued. So, whether or not the events violate Title IX is a moot point.

  • Blue

    So just because one kid doesn’t have her father in her life, the rest of the town has to suffer? It’s not the child’s fault or the town’s fault. And gender discrimination? What does that have to do with anything.

  • isolde3

    Can I just say that I’m absolutely kii-ing over some of you pressed souls seething over this! The irony of this is that if a boy wanted to attend the dance but wasn’t allowed because it was a father/daughter event or if a girl wanted to attend the PTA sponsored ball game but couldn’t because the event was for mothers and sons, then more of you would probably be able to see the forest for the trees, but since a single mother was the one to bring the issue to light, then all of a sudden, the gendered aspects and implications of the events are irrelevant. Well, alrighty then.

  • Smilez_920

    That’s not the case. Most of the ppl who have replied said there’s nothing wrong with having the option that all kids could attend regardless of the parental situation.

    The situation you used is gender specific. This is about making more events that include different family structures. I know where your Tryin to go, gender specific in terms of the parents. But come on. They had an event for each gender. There’s nothing wrong with that. If the mother wanted to take the daughter to the dance that bad she could have done it, I’m pretty sure no one would stop her.

    The mother isn’t worried about gender. She wasnt mad because her daughter wanted to go play baseball and the school said no. She was mad because her daughter had no male figure to take her to the dance. After no one saw that as a problem she played the gender card. These are elementary school kids, I doubt their are 300 pounds body guards at these event pointing out which children and parents can come in.

    I hope the school just has dances/ events for the children only. Let them all play togther and only have the parents their as volueenterr guardians. Then all the madness can stop and any mother or father can join in and ppl can quite complaining.

  • Moni

    I don’t see how making it a parent/child dance denies children with fathers (and I say that as someone with a very involved father). If fathers want to take their daughters, they are certainly welcome to do so. Nobody is stopping them. If a father is only willing to take his child to a dance parent/child if it specifically requires fathers, that’s on him.

  • Smilez_920

    Maybe you and I aren’t reading the same article. But the article said she filled a complaint because she had no male figure to escort her daughter to the Dance. She didn’t file a complaint because her daughter couldn’t play in the baseball game. I don’t think mother had a problem with her daughter going to a dance vs playing baseball. The mother was’nt happy because the event didn’t included a place for her family structure.

    And you don’t know what she’s thinking either. Maybe your giving her too much credit and maybe I’m not going her enough credit.

    And sometimes we as adults go over board with the gender argument and put more pressure on children trying to conform or unconfirmed them or whatever.

    Go to an elementary school sit in a class full of little boys. Ask them ” how many all all want to get dressed up in a suite and tie and go to a dance. Or do u want to run outside with your mom and play baseball” I’m sure your answer will point to baseball or basketball or tag or water fight or whatever.

    Personally I don’t really care what they do. As long as the kids come out educated. They don’t have to have another dance, baseball game or activity. But you seem a little pressed, angry, everyone has a right to their opinion, you might be right and you might be wrong.

    And trust I see the issue from both sides. I said they should have more activities that include the whole family mom , dad , son, daughter.

  • Moni

    You and several other of the commentors are missing my whole point. I completely agree that the law isn’t always right. But if the law is wrong, your only (legal) option is to change it, not willfully violate it. Yeah, I might think that the speed limits in my town are too low, but I have nobody to blame but myself if I get pulled over for speeding. That’s just how the law works.

    The way that the US legal system is set up, your only options for changing laws or the way laws are applied are to sue over it over have enough influence to get elected officials to change it. I definitely think this country is far to litigious (I’m not even that kind of lawyer), but that’s the way the system is designed…

  • MimiLuvs

    In my opinion, the district banning the functions is throwing the baby out with the wash. There are plenty of ideas and changes they could’ve made to both activities. In regards to the father-daughter dance, it can still happen but not on school grounds on funded by the school. If it does happened, then what can that mother do next?

  • Moni

    Your first statements are completely untrue. I read the linked article, as well as the statements from the ACLU and the response from the school, because unfortunately the Clutch article does not include all the facts. Two years ago the school voluntarily decided that all school events should be gender neutral and for the past two years the dance was open to all students to attend with an adult of their choice. The school district was the ones who banned these types of events in the first place, and people adjusted. The PTO did not receive school permission to change it back to a father daughter dance. If it was such a big deal to have a gender neutral dance, there would have been more of an outcry two years ago. The current controversy was amicably resolved over 4 months ago (no lawsuit, the ACLU just sent a letter to the school). Now that an election is just around the corner, when one party is trying to defend the country against an “assault on traditional values”, all of a sudden it’s a big news story. I wonder why…

  • Moni

    The school district voluntarily changed things and banned all gender neutral events 2 years ago. For the past 2 years they’ve had dances that were open to all children with an adult of their choice. The PTO did not have permission to change it back to a father/daughter dance. I fail to see how anyone is punished for allowing all children to come to the dance with any adult, especially since it was the school board’s decision to begin with. Unfortunately, Clutch didn’t report all of the facts of the issue.

  • giah

    We have to stop this idea that everything is for everybody. We are raising a generation of entitled kids. If you don’t have a father or a father figure, you can’t go. In the same way that a kid in a wheel chair can’t choice the baseball team. These are extra curricular activities, not required or even connected to learning..so what is the big deal?

    Seriously – will this mother want the prom cancelled if her daughter can’t find a date? Should we cancelled cheerleading tryouts because her daughter can’t jump or clap on beat? Where should we draw the line?

    Your kids can’t/won’t do everything there is to do. Like another poster said on here – find something else to do that night that is equally as fun.

    BTW, you’re a single mother. I get that. But seriously there isn’t ONE positive male role model in your child’s life? That’s devastating. Her problems are more than a daddy-daughter dance…

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    I feel sorry for the child because she is in a catchh 22 of not having a father/father figure and most likely be outcast because the blame is going to fall on her regardless…poor kid. Personally I don’t think outright banning activities is the answer nor is it fair. I do think that maybe they should tweak the rules to include functions and activities for single or even gay parents too because not every has a traditional upbringing. I just think there was a better solution

  • paul


    Thanks for demonstrating how important it is to be INFORMED (as much as is possible) before having an opinion.

    It seems that some of us offered a knee jerk opinions to this story, rather than informed opinions – even though the facts are EASILY accessible.

    Respect the classy way you did it too: subtly urging them to READ the additional info provided in the links.

    But of course the torches and pitchforks mob never let the facts get in the way of their self righteousness

    I hope these brain dead group thinking followers never find themselves in a one against the mob situation.

    They won’t know what to do coz they’re not used to thinking for themselves. .

  • Ms. Information

    @ Paul good thing you know how to use the “bold” feature when posting…I didn’t learn that in pitchfork class. ;)

  • isolde3

    That’s not the same. The radio station in Atlanta is not a public school, and what reason do you have to believe that the mother doesn’t spend time with her child?

  • http://gravatar.com/mimiandy1683 MimiLuvs

    +1. I wanted to write a comment similar to yours, but I feel that some other commentators will misconstrue my comment.
    I also wondered if the identity of this mother has been revealed, due to the chance that this child will be bullied/ostracized by her fellow classmates.

  • isolde3

    “They had an event for each gender. There’s nothing wrong with that.”


    Yes, a dance for girls and baseball for boys. If that isn’t rooted in gender stereotypes, I don’t know what is.

    “The mother isn’t worried about gender. She wasnt mad because her daughter wanted to go play baseball and the school said no. The mother isn’t worried about gender. She wasnt mad because her daughter wanted to go play baseball and the school said no. She was mad because her daughter had no male figure to take her to the dance. After no one saw that as a problem she played the gender card. ”

    Here’s what you don’t seem to get. It doesn’t matter what the mother’s motives were. Even if the mother complained because her daughter had no male escort, it doesn’t change the fact that a public elementary school shouldn’t be facilitating these types of stereotypically gendered events that wind up excluding members of the student body. That’s the point. The rule was in violation of the law well before that single mother spoke up, and the fact that the single mother spoke up doesn’t make the events any less legally dubious. If it wasn’t a single mother whose child didn’t have a father or an adult male to bring to the dance, then it could’ve been a lesbian couple with a daughter or gay male couple with a son, etc.. Which event should kids from those households attend? Why should kids from those types of households be excluded from a PUBLIC school event when they are members of the school? Anyway, “Moni,” already spilled the tea about what really went down. So, whatevs.

  • JC

    Couldn’t they have resolved it by having parent/guardian dances and baseball games? I don’t see why they had to nuke both events.

  • http://twitter.com/VerbalTiye VerbalTiye (@VerbalTiye)

    No one told her to get with a man who will dipset as soon as the words preg come out her mouth lol. Now the little girl is going to get ridiculed at school because, her mom is a time hater (dave chapelle approved message).

  • cupcakes and shiraz

    Actually, the school tried to tweak the events. The mother was just a bitter, miserable cow that wanted to ruin things at all expense.:

    The formal announcement followed earlier communication with the principals in the spring, when a parent at Stadium School complained to that school’s parent organization that her daughter did not have a father to bring to the “Me and My Guy” dance that was being held by the school for the first time.
    “We have always held family dances and events but we’d had a lot of requests for this, so we decided to try it,” said then-PTO President of Stadium School Shelley Fusco. “We told the mom that it didn’t have to be a dad, it could be her grandfather or some other male of her choice, but the mom said that the grandfather worked and didn’t want to go to the dance on a Friday night. We changed the name of the dance to ‘Bring the Adult of Your Choice,’ but she still wasn’t happy with that and she went to the ACLU.””

    “We even invited the mom to attend with her from day one, either as the child’s guest or as a volunteer for the event where she could stay the night, but she did not attend or volunteer. She did stop by the event briefly and was upset that the PTO board was there,” said Fusco, noting that the PTO board and their event volunteers do work the events that they organize for the school.”

    Source: http://www.cranstononline.com/stories/May-I-have-this-dance,75054

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