Steven Brown, director of the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Cranston's father-daughter dance ban isn't about state law versus federal law regarding gender discrimination in schools.
"The school district was fostering blatant stereotypes that are not allowable in this day in age," Brown said in a telephone interview with CranstonPatch. "Arranging for a dance for girls to go to and a ballgame for boys to go is a tradition that may have worked in the 1950s, but it doesn't necessarily play out the same in 2012."
Johnston has been holding "family dances" at local elementary schools for about the last 12 years — what do you think of how the town has handled the issue? Add your comments here.
"Not every girl wants to grow up to be Cinderella," Brown said. "Some might actually more enjoy playing baseball. But these types of stereotyped events promote an opposite impression. It's Ozzie and Harriet stuff. It shouldn't be happening in this century."
The ACLU wrote a letter to the school district about the father-daughter dances after a parent contacted them. The parent reportedly was upset that her child couldn't go to the dance and was unhappy with alternatives the district offered her.
The district implemented the ban about four months ago and the matter was deemed resolved at that time, Brown said.
“The controversy that has suddenly arisen in a political campaign over father-daughter dances in Cranston is old news – the matter was amicably resolved with school officials over four months ago," Brown explained, "and it was resolved for a simple reason: the school district recognized that in the 21st Century, public schools have no business fostering the notion that girls prefer to go to formal dances while boys prefer baseball games. This type of gender stereotyping only perpetuates outdated notions of 'girl' and 'boy activities, and is contrary to federal law."
Brown said it's not true that federal Title IX rules makes a clear exception for father-daughter dances. Any gender-specific event must have something "legally comparable" and a dance and baseball game do not meet that standard.
Brown said he has never attended a father-daughter dance. His daughter has grown up.
And if there was a father-daughter dance?
"She would have complained and wanted to go to the baseball game."