The daddy-daughter dance is an age-old tradition, but some say that it’s time for a name change.
Many schools host these dances in the name of long-established customs, but with the rise of nontraditional families, these gender-specific events need to become more inclusive, parents say.
Erik Sosa-Kibby and his partner, Mark, said they felt excluded when their sons’ elementary school held its annual mother-son outing.
“When I brought up my concern, it was like pulling teeth,” said Sosa-Kibby, whose two sons missed the event twice at Bristol Elementary School in Wisconsin. “I made a joke on Facebook that I was going to dress up as a woman in order to take my boys.”
The events were finally made more gender-neutral, but the family didn’t benefit from the change. Last year, the boys switched schools, and Sosa — Kibby found himself bringing the same concern to the new school.
Lake Forest Country Day School held a mother-son bowling event, but when Sosa-Kibby asked the school to change the name to be more inclusive, administrators quickly agreed to change it to “VIP and son bowling.”
The father-daughter dance at a public elementary school in southern New Hampshire was changed to Little Miss Dance two years ago. The PTO encouraged female students to bring their father or another male role model.
“We chose to change the name to accommodate the many types of families we have at our school, and hopefully to not make any girl feel excluded, dad or no dad,” saidKerstie Ellenton Hazelbaker, PTO president. “We have had families with two moms, dads serving overseas and transgender parents contact us to ask if they can come. No girl should … feel that they cannot attend or that it doesn’t apply to them.”
Parents who have been denied access to a school function because of their gender have sought help from the American Civil Liberties Union.
A public school in Rhode Island blocked a single mother from attending a father-daughter dance with her daughter in 2012. The mother worked with the ACLU, which said the school violated national Title IX legislation that protects people from sex-based discrimination in education programs or activities. The school was forced to change the name of the dance to make it inclusive of all genders.
“No one should be denied participation in any education program that receives federal assistance due to sex or gender,” said Ed Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the ACLU of Illinois.
“But the thing that is vexing to me is you see the language of the daddy-daughter and the mom-son thing, and you see the rapidly changing dynamics of our society, and you wonder, ‘Would the daddy-daughter dance ban the daughter of a lesbian couple?’ The way in which families form and re-form, and the various assorted relationships which one has, these aren’t always as linear as the traditional nuclear family,” he said.
There are some parents who disagree.
“I know I would be nothing but flattered to take a nephew or niece, and my kids would be happy to take grandma or a family friend in my place if I was unable,” said Edith Gomero, a stay-at-home mom of three in Oak Park who is for keeping the traditional names of these events.
“I understand trying to be inclusive for all, but at the same time, I feel that sometimes this inclusiveness takes a little away from kids that want to have the opportunity for some traditional things,” she said.
Danielle Braff is a freelance writer.
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