An elementary school in Ogden, Utah, recognizes the feelings of exclusion and vulnerability that sometimes come with being a kid.
So when Valentine’s Day comes around, and Kanesville Elementary hosts its annual sixth-grade dance, teachers have encouraged students to dance with every classmate who asks them.
But not this year. At a time when women are speaking out about sexual harassment and abuse as part of the #MeToo movement, parents at the school are appalled to learn their daughters aren’t allowed to say “no” to students they don’t want to dance with. They insisted the school change its policy.
“[It] sends a bad message to girls that girls have to say ‘yes,’ sends a bad message to boys that girls can’t say ‘no,’ ” Natalie Richard, the mother of a Kanesville sixth-grader, told Fox 13 last week.
Teaching children that they alone control their bodies is a message that’s gaining momentum nationwide. The Girl Scouts, for example, surprised many late last year with an article that read, “She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays.” And psychologists have said that even women who have avoided abuse in the workplace deal with destructive gender dynamics at home and can risk passing them on to their children.
Richard brought her concerns up with the Kanesville principal, and said that forcing students to dance with anyone and everyone sends the wrong message to children, Fox 13 reported. Rejection, after all, is a part of life, Richard said.
“Psychologically, my daughter keeps coming to me and saying I can’t say ‘no’ to a boy,” she told Fox 13. “That’s the message kids are getting.”
The Weber School District said in a statement to CNN on Monday that the rules for the dance have been changed.
Students in previous years were asked to turn in a list of the people they wanted to dance with. School staff would then arrange dances based on who requested to dance with whom, district officials said. For example, half of a girl’s dances during the event would be with people she requested to dance with, while the other half would be with people who wanted to dance with her.
That’s no longer the case. Now, students are allowed to reject another student. School officials told CNN they will re-examine their previous method and look for a way in the future to make students feel included — but also free to make their own choices.
“We have advised our schools to eliminate any sort of language in the instructions surrounding these dances that would suggest a student must dance with another student,” officials said in the statement.