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Father-daughter dances: Why one city is cancelling them

The tradition of father-daughter dances in schools is getting pushback in New York City, and not everyone is happy about the changes.

In a highly controversial move, one American city has nixed school father-daughter dances—an evening where dads and daughters pose adorably for photos and then spend the evening together, dancing the night away.

A law passed by the New York Department of Education last March, called the “Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Guidelines,” directed schools to eliminate any gender-based practices—which includes father-daughter dances—unless the activities served a clear educational purpose.

And the issue came to a head earlier this month when a school on Staten Island canceled their dance—citing the DOE policy—generating an uproar of dissenting opinions from parents and non-parents alike. Those in favor of the dances say they’re innocent, sweet and much-beloved events where fathers and their daughters can bond, make lasting memories, and grow closer.

   Little boy challenging traditional gender roles in a fairy costume with pink beret washing the dishes with his mom    
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Those on the other side of the argument find that such gendered events can be exclusionary—not only for those who don’t identify with their biological gender, but for families with different structures, such as families with two moms or single mom-led households.

Some also argue that there’s something slightly creepy or inherently sexualizing about the whole thing—the strikingly “princess” attire of many of the girls, the vaguely romantic overtones, the shades of the ‘purity-ring’ tradition that some families embrace. To some, it feels like an imitation of a “date night.” (Of course, to others it’s entirely wholesome and sweet.)

New York Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who represents part of Brooklyn and Staten Island, says she plans on petitioning the DOE to change the rules, saying that if we start cancelling these sorts of events, there’s no telling where it could end. “If the rule continues to be implemented as is, schools will have to cancel events such as mother-son bowling or game night as well,” argues Malliotakis. “Should a transgender child wish to participate in such an event, accommodations can be made without having to eliminate the activity as a whole.”

Despite the controversy, according to NBC New York, three schools (including PS 38 in Manhattan), said they still plan to hold daddy-daughter dances and a fourth has one on its online calendar.

Where do you stand on this issue?

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