Father-Daughter Dance Not Inclusive, So Cancel It

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/02/10/father-daughter-dance-not-inclusive-so-cancel-it/

As a father, I realize the humbling responsibility. Is there a bigger vocation? Screw up the job and you likely screw up the kids.

The answer is not in being perfect, but being present; give your time – special time.

For years, I called outings with one of my children “special time.” It’s important to be with my sons and, vitally important to be with my girls, one-on-one.

Fortunately, my daughters do not attend Public School 65 on Staten Island, New York. Because, like the P.S. 65 dads, I would be looking forward to the annual Father-Daughter Dance this week, only to find out it has been canceled.

Apparently, singling out fathers and daughters – and celebrating a relationship that is important to both – is not to be tolerated.

According to a story in the New York Post, school PTA president Toni Bennett wrote the following in a Facebook message to the group:

“Until we understand what we are legally permitted to do, we need to table this event.”

Legally? A Father-Daughter dance? Well, it depends on who is interpreting the rules. New rules from the city’s education department arrived in a policy called:  Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Student Guidelines.

And what do gender guidelines have to do with dads and daughters going out for a special time? The problem is that the dads are guys, and the daughters are girls. From the guidelines:

“Gender-based policies, rules, and practices can have the effect of marginalizing, stigmatizing, stereotyping and excluding students, whether or not they are transgender or gender nonconforming. For these reasons, schools should review such policies, rules and practices, and should eliminate any that do not serve a clear pedagogical purpose. Examples may include such practices as gender-based graduation gowns, lines, and/or attire for yearbook pictures.”

It should be noted the school has held mother-son events in the past. Those will likely be scrapped – unless they serve a clear pedagogical purpose.

Pedagogy means educational. Astute writer Annie Holmquist of Intellectual Takeout claims that a father-daughter dance is educational:

“For starters, they teach young girls that they are valuable. They then teach them how a good man responds to that value, namely, by being a loving, caring gentleman who treats women with respect. Finally, they teach girls how to respond appropriately to such respect in their words and actions.

“Those are important lessons, particularly in an age in which it seems that neither men nor women know how to appropriately interact with one another. Furthermore, they also promise to be important in helping young girls find their footing and become a success in a competitive world.”

Several studies back up the importance of fathers in their daughters’ lives. Psychotherapist Mary Jo Rapini “emphasizes that fathers who pay attention to their daughters’ achievements, interest and characters tend to produce confident adults … Studies show that dads give girls 90 percent of their self-esteem before the age of 12.”

In my family, I hope I have/had an influential role in my children’s upbringing. I know my wife is a huge influence. But our interactions are different. Mom and dad; sons and daughters. This isn’t just adults and offspring.

According to the Post article, school principal Sophie Scamardella wrote a letter to the parents saying, in part:  “The DOE … has strict guidelines about how we present information. They have a ‘gender neutral’ policy that must be adhered to at all times.”

Reportedly, another dance is being planned, with everyone invited.

So much for the special time between fathers and daughters.

Of course, dads can take their daughters out to non-school events. May I suggest hikes, camping, playgrounds, and libraries? For dress-up time, I prefer a musical at the local theater, with dinner ahead of time (and let her order off the adult menu).

Fathers and daughters need special time together. It’s a lesson that some schools need to re-learn.


Kevin Thomas is a writer and former teacher, living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.