New Rhode Island Law Allows ‘Father-Daughter’ Dances — If There’s One for the Opposite Sex

by Sterling Beard

Rhode Island schools may now conduct gender-specific school events so long as a “comparable” event is scheduled for students of the opposite sex, the Providence Journal reports.

Democratic governor Lincoln Chafee allowed the bill became law without his signature, ignoring calls for a veto from over two dozen women’s groups.

The bill, introduced by Democratic state senator Hanna M. Gallo in the wake of a ban on single-gender events by the Cranston, R.I., school superintendent, allows “father-daughter” or “mother-son” dances so long as there is a similar event for the opposite sex.

The ban originated after the Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint over a “Me and My Guy Dinner Dance” on behalf of a single mother of a fourth grader. The invitation asked students to bring “the adult male” of their choice.

The ACLU and other opponents of the bill argue in a letter that the invitation’s suggestion is too vague, broad, and runs afoul of federal anti-discrimination laws. In addition, the law’s foes charge that it will allow segregation of boys and girls in extracurricular activities, and permit activities that “reflect sex stereotypes,” such as girl dances and boy baseball games.

Steven Brown, the executive director for the ACLU’s Rhode Island Affiliate, blasted the bill, calling it “a clear violation of federal law.”

“I think it is embarrassing that Rhode Island has taken a leap 40 years backwards before Title IX was enacted by Congress,” Brown said.

Brown said that he assumed “the first school district that attempts to make use of the law will be facing a lawsuit.”

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