As the conversation around “consent” continues to circulate worldwide, one Utah school is facing backlash over their recent message to 6th-grade girls: just say “yes.”
Natalie Richard’s sixth-grade daughter was one of the many students who came home inquiring about the rules of her school, Kanesville Elementary’s, Valentine’s Day dance.
That rule, the girl said, was that she couldn’t say “no” if a boy asked her to dance.
“Oh no, no honey,” Richard said to her daughter, thinking it was confusion or a simple rumor. “You guys are misunderstanding again. That’s not how it is.”
After speaking to her daughter’s teacher, however, the nightmare of truth came forward and Richard realized her daughter was correct.
“The teacher said she can’t,” Richard told Fox 13. “She has to say yes. She has to accept and I said, ‘Excuse me?'”
Taking her concerns to the school principal, Richard pressed for answers but received none that settled the unease forming within.
“He basically just said they’ve had this dance set up this way for a long time and they’ve never had any concern before,” she said.
The Weber School District later confirmed it was a rule and that it aimed not at breaching consent, but at inclusivity — the school itself did not seem to realize there is a time and place for each.
“Please be respectful, be polite,” said Lan Findlay who works with the school district. “We want to promote kindness, and so we want you to say yes when someone asks you to dance.”
And though Richard admits that she understands why they would want to adopt the policy of inclusivity, a school dance where girls are ordered to dance with boys they’d rather stay away from “sends a bad message to girls that girls have to say ‘yes'” and “sends a bad message to boys that girls can’t say ‘no.'”
Prior to the voluntary sweetheart dance, students are told to fill out a card by selecting five people they’d like to dance with, and if there is someone on the card they feel uncomfortable with, the student is encouraged to speak up.
And the dancer selections are split in half, part of the choosing going to the girls and the other half to the boys — all of whom are not allowed to dance with the same person more than once.
“If there is an issue, if there’s students that are uncomfortable or have a problem with another student, I mean: that’s certainly something that can be addressed with that student and parents,” Findlay said.
However, Richard holds firm to the notion that rejection is just another part of life that students are going to have to learn to deal with, and that the policy is sending the wrong impression when everything is said and done.
“Psychologically, my daughter keeps coming to me and saying I can’t say ‘no’ to a boy,” she said. “That’s the message kids are getting.”
And Richard’s is not alone, as other parents have taken to social media to call out the school’s policy.
“Respectfully decline to dance … Children should learn to say ‘no thanks’ in uncomfortable situations,” wrote one parent.
“Girls should not have to feel obligated to say yes to anyone. Especially when it involves physical contact,” wrote another. “I would rather keep my daughter home instead of making that environment acceptable.”
As the policy sparked outrage from parent’s and others nation-wide, the school admitted that it will rescind the formal rule and rethink its strategy — leaving their student’s to simply say “no.”
“In the best interest of our students, we are re-examining the procedures surrounding these dances and will make any necessary changes to promote a positive environment where all students feel included and empowered in their choices,” the school’s statement said.
“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.”
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