Daddy-Daughter Dances Have No Place in 2017

daddy daughter dance
Shutterstock/George Rudy

How far would you go to make your kid feel better? A single mom in Georgia named Amy Peterson went pretty darn far this week: She drew a fake beard on her face and donned a button-up shirt so she could be her 6-year-old daughter's "male" date to her elementary school's father-daughter dance. But the act that put a big smile on little Gracie's face earned the opposite reaction from the folks at the Henry County school district. 

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Shortly before Amy and Gracie left for the dance, ABC reports that the principal called to say they'd be barred from entering because, well, Amy's not a dad.

mom draws beard on face for father-daughter dance
ABC News

Instead of apologizing for making a 6-year-old miserable, the district's doubling down. Their excuse?

There are multiple parent engagement events and opportunities to participate with their kids annually at this school in an effort to make that connection and build school spirit.

Well gee, isn't that nice? There are other things the kid can do, so we're still going to make her feel like crap today. She's separate ... but she's equal. 

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Where have we heard that before?

Father-daughter dances, donuts with dad, muffins with mom ... they're the sort of old-fashioned heteronormative events that have no place in 2017 -- at least not in our public schools. It's not because there's anything wrong with heterosexual married parents, but because they're just a small part of a very big world. Today one in four kids under 18 is being raised in a home without a dad, whether because the child has a single mom or gay moms. Seventeen percent of custodial parents in America are single dads. And more than 115,000 gay couples in America have kids.

Events designed to include only one parent of a particular sex automatically cut out a huge swath of the kids public schools are designed to serve. And, keep in mind we're not talking about events that are necessary to a child's education. This isn't a geometry lecture or a read-a-thon. Daddy-daughter dances have nothing to do with educating children, and thus could easily be cut or adapted. 

And while kids certainly do need to learn disappointment in life -- it's part of how they grow -- there's a vast difference between requiring tryouts for the basketball team to encourage kids to practice, or honoring the high honor roll kids with an achievement day to encourage kids to study harder, and dangling an event in front of kids that no matter what they do, they can't ever attend. Kids can't practice or study their way into making their parents different sexes, or getting a deadbeat dad to show up, or having a deceased parent rise from the dead. Nor, frankly, should they feel they have to come up with that "missing" parent. Single and gay parents are every bit as good at raising kids as heterosexual couples.

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Unfortunately events like the one in Henry County don't just exclude kids like Gracie and make them feel bad. They also send a message to kids who can attend that they're somehow better than those who cannot, creating a system of haves vs. have-nots in public schools. Kids shouldn't have to prove they come from a certain type of family in order to attend a school-sponsored event.

So long as we continue to separate kids based on these archaic traditions, students are not being treated equally in schools.

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