An elementary school policy aimed at promoting tolerance at a Valentine’s Day dance has a Utah mother upset over the “bad message” she says it’s sending to students.
Natalie Richard thought her daughter was mistaken when the sixth-grader said she couldn’t say no if a boy asked her to dance at the Kanesville Elementary dance in West Haven, Utah (about 38 miles northwest of Salt Lake City), FOX 13 first reported.
“Oh no, no honey,” Richard told her daughter, the station reported, “That’s not how it is.”
But, Richard said, when she went to the school principal with her concerns, he told her they’ve had the dance set up that way for a long time and have never “had any concerns before,” 7 News reported.
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Weber School District officials confirmed that the rule exists but say it’s meant to teach students how to be inclusive, the news station said.
“We want to promote kindness and so we want you to say yes when someone asks you to dance,” said Lane Findlay, a spokesperson for the district.
Although she understands their perspective, Richard says the rule could send a bad message to girls that they “have to say yes” and tell boys that girls “can’t say no,” 7 News reported.
The district said Monday in a statement to McClatchy that participation in the school dance is voluntary and explained that students are taught various styles of dancing, such as line dancing, in PE before the event.
Students are given a dance card that has a certain number of lines on it where names can be written down, the school said. Students are told to write the names of the students they want to dance with on the card. Half of the selections are the girl’s choice and half are the boy’s choice, the school said. Students can’t dance with the same person more than once.
“Students are also told by their teacher that if a classmate asks to be on their card, they should be polite and respectful, and agree to dance with that person,” the school said. “This applies to all students regardless of gender.”
Concerned that parents weren’t aware of the policy, Richard told FOX 13 she recommended the principal send out a permission slip detailing the instructions given to students, and he agreed, Richard said.
Richard isn’t the only one who’s worried about the policy, The Independent reported. Commenters on social media expressed their concern with teaching children to believe that “no” is an unacceptable answer, the publication said.
“Inclusiveness is not nearly as important as teaching children that they have no obligation to allow anyone to touch them or invade their personal space if it makes them uncomfortable,” one person wrote on FOX 13’s Facebook page.
But others found no problems with the policy, reiterating the school’s stance that it helps foster inclusion.
The district says it’s re-examining the procedures surrounding these dances and will make any neccessary chances to promote a “positive environment where all students feel included and empowered in their choices.”