School Tells Kids They Can't Say 'No' When Asked to Dance & Sparks a Major Debate


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An elementary school in Utah is stirring up controversy after a concerned mother publicly expressed criticism of a troubling school policy. The policy, which says students aren't allowed to say no to others who ask them to dance, is being defended by the administration, which claims it promotes inclusivity. Still, the policy has been polarizing for parents, some of whom are all for it, while others are calling it dangerous. 

  • Mom Natalie Richard questioned the policy after her daughter, who is in sixth grade, told her about it.

    Richard says the girl came home one day and informed her that she wouldn't be allowed to say "no" if a boy asked her to dance at Kanesville Elementary School's Valentine’s Day dance. At first, the mother admitted that she thought her daughter was just confused about the rules. "Oh no, no, honey," she recalled to Fox 13 Now. "You guys are misunderstanding again. That's not how it is."

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    But after contacting the girl's teacher, she was proven wrong. "The teacher said she can’t. She has to say yes. She has to accept and I said, 'Excuse me,'" she explained.

    Richard took her concerns to the school's principal, who told her this policy was a long-standing tradition at Kanesville Elementary. "He basically just said they've had this dance set up this way for a long time and they've never had any concern before," the mother said. 

    Richard says that while she understands the need for providing children with "safe space," she doesn't think it should come at the expense of the kids' ability to consent. “[The policy] sends a bad message to girls that girls have to say 'yes'; sends a bad message to boys that girls can't say 'no.'"

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  • But on the Fox 13 Facebook page, many people disagreed with Richards.

    Many accused her of blowing the policy out of proportion. Some also took to social media to clarify that it isn't only girls who aren't allowed to say no, but boys as well.

  • Others said that the controversial policy kept kids from feeling left out.

    Those who are shy or nervous may have an easier time enjoying themselves if they don't have to fear being rejected. One parent wrote that the "the worst thing" for any kid in situations like these is being left out. 

  • Fox 13 spoke with Lane Findlay from the Weber School District, who defended the school's policy.

    Much like Kanesville Elementary's principal, Findlay stated that the rules were all about inclusivity. "Please be respectful, be polite," he said. "We want to promote kindness, and so we want you to say yes when someone asks you to dance."

    Findlay clarified that before the dance, students who are attending are made to fill out a card with five other students they want to dance with. Findlay says that at any time, students are allowed to approach administrators if they feel uncomfortable about some else's card. 

    "If there is an issue, if there's students that are uncomfortable or have a problem with another student, I mean, that's certainly something that can be addressed with that student and parents," Findlay said. 

  • Still, plenty of parents weren't buying the excuses.

    Many pointed out that rules like these only work to take away the voices of young people who are still just learning how to speak up when they feel uncomfortable about things. 

  • One woman, who claimed to have attended Kanesville Elementary herself, spoke out about how uncomfortable this policy made her.

    Despite what administrators say about encouraging students to express their discomfort, many clearly didn't feel comfortable sharing their true feelings about the rule.

  • Ultimately, a lot of parents were concerned about the bad precedent this policy was setting for students.

    Many brought up how teaching kids they aren't allowed to tell people "no" -- and that they aren't allowed to accept "no" as an answer -- is a gateway to normalizing things like sexual assault and harassment. 

    This is what Natalie Richard worries about the most. "Psychologically, my daughter keeps coming to me and saying I can't say 'no' to a boy," she said. "That's the message kids are getting."

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    No kids want to feel left out, just like no parents want to see their kids be left out. Still, telling kids -- both girls and boys -- that the best way to handle rejection is by forcing other students to dance with them is incredibly detrimental. In a time when, even in the real world, "no" isn't always taken with the seriousness it should be, teaching our kids that they don't have to learn or adhere to the meaning of the word is more than wrong -- it's dangerous. 

    While the school's controversial dance rule is in place, the principal has agreed to send students home with a permission slip detailing the rules of the dance. 

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