By Lindsay Smith, Intern
By now you have probably heard the story: a single mom felt her daughter was being excluded from a school function, and voilà, no more father-daughter dances or mother-son baseball games in Rhode Island’s Cranston school district. According to the superintendent, these events violate gender discrimination laws. This mom, this superintendent, these lawyers were probably just trying to prevent kids from getting hurt, at least we will give the benefit of the doubt to their motives. However, I am all too concerned about what research reveals: banning events like these harms the entire student body.
Parents are important. Not surprisingly, abundant research supports this truth, especially in education. On average, children from intact married families earn higher test scores, have higher high school GPAs, are less likely to drop out of school, and have better behavior than their peers. In addition, “adolescent children of single-parent families or stepfamilies reported that their parents had lower educational expectations for them, were less likely to monitor schoolwork, and supervised social activities less than the parents of children in intact biological families.” Based on these findings, one can see parental involvement directly correlates with academic success.
Sadly, Cranston’s ruling reduces parental involvement, which at its core is fruitful to the district. Cranston removed events which promote positive interaction. I have never been employed as a teacher, but I would imagine most educators are thankful for engaged and helpful parents. While I am not a teacher, I was a student, and can verify that involved parents, whether my own or another child’s, positively impacted my classroom experience. The student body benefits when parents invest in education, in the school, and in the school’s activities. The mayor of Cranston summarizes these findings well when he said, “[The events] contribute to the well being of our children as a whole.” Fathers taking their daughters to a school dance is positive. Mothers taking their sons to a school baseball game is good, not because it promotes a child’s exclusion, but because it encourages parental participation.
I do believe every child should have the chance to benefit from these activities. I do believe every child can have an equal opportunity to attend – not by minimizing the traditional family (gender roles included) but by promoting it. I heard it said once, “The problem is not that we have too much of Christ in our marriage; it’s that we don’t have enough.” The same principle applies here. People are not excluded because there is too little family love but because there is not enough. Let me put some concrete words to this theory.
Growing up, both sets of my grandparents lived over 10 hours away. It wasn’t practical for them to attend my school functions. However, when it came time for “Grandparents’ lunch day” at my elementary school, our sweet, elderly neighbor or my friend’s grandmother would always show up to eat with me. Would I have liked my biological grandparents to be there? Absolutely, but that doesn’t negate the wonderful times I had with these women who sacrificed their time for me. I felt special; I felt loved; I felt included. I propose a better solution is not to eliminate the event, but rather to embrace the child. Allow traditional families to show what love and support look like and invite a child whose mom or dad can’t attend, whatever the reason. Surely there are fathers, grandfathers, uncles, mentors in this community who would gladly take this young girl to the dance. I bet there are mothers, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, who would gladly take another boy to the baseball game with their family. Support the family, and support these traditions not in spite of the students but for their betterment. When the family is stronger, education is stronger, and that’s something that should make us all get up and dance.