Cranston, RI public schools ban ‘father-daughter’ dances following ACLU complaint

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The Cranston, R.I public school system has banned father-daughter and mother-son events following a complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Although the federal Title IX anti-discrimination law does provide exemptions for such events, state law does not, but rather explicitly bans “sex discrimination in ‘…any and all school functions and activities,’” Superintendent of the Cranston Public School System Judith A Lundsten explained in an August letter sent to “Partner Organizations” and posted in full at WPRO News in R.I.

Republican state senate candidate Sean Gately was largely responsible for bringing the prohibition to the attention of the press after he turned it into a campaign issue. He told The Daily Caller that he learned of the ban, which was instituted in August, last week after an open house at his child’s school.

Gately told The Daily Caller that if he is elected, one of his first legislative actions as state senator would be to offer an amendment to mirror the language in Title IX, and thereby allow exemptions for the dances.

“A lot of people define inclusion as excluding everyone, and that is wrong. These are our long standing traditions,” Gately said, explaining that his goal is not exclusion, but principle and tradition.

The ban came after the ACLU issued a complaint on behalf of a single mother whose daughter could not attend a father-daughter dance, according to the Providence Journal.

“I acknowledge that many of these events have long traditions and for many parents, these types of gender-based events are not an issue,” Superintendent Lundsten continued in her letter. “However, this is a public school system and under no circumstances should we be isolating any child from full participation in school activities and events based on gender. Please be all-inclusive when planning your events.”

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung expressed disappoint with the recent development, saying that he believed the reading of the law was flawed, according to WPRI.

“Just from my initial gut reaction I think it’s too narrow of a reading,” he said.

While some balk at the idea of prohibitions on such tradition, the ACLU is standing strong.

“This is 2012 and they [public schools] should not be in the business of fostering blatant gender stereotypes,” Steven Brown of the Rhode Island ACLU told the WPRO News.

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