Women’s groups call for veto of father-daughter dance bill

Dee DeQuattro


Several women's groups are calling on Governor Lincoln Chafee to veto a bill aimed at permitting gender specific events in public schools.

The bill was proposed in order to reinstate father-daughter dances and mother-son baseball games after a Cranston parent complained about the events to the RI ACLU.

The complaint shed light on the fact that gender specific events are actually banned by Rhode Island law. As a result the Cranston School Board asked the General Assembly to address the issue in the next session.

The letter signed by National Coalition of Women and Girls in Education, National Women's Law Center, American Association of University Women, ACLU Women's Rights Project, Women's Sports Foundation, and the National Council of Jewish Women

“Sex discrimination in public schools (including in extracurricular activities) is prohibited by federal statute, federal regulations, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution . . . But should this bill become law, it could lead schools to believe that single-sex programming is permitted, so long as a “reasonably comparable” activity is offered to students of the other sex.  That is not the operative legal standard.  The Constitution requires that public schools articulate an “exceedingly persuasive” justification for classifying students on the basis of sex, and demonstrate that the sex separation is substantially related to achieving that objective . . . This bill thus embodies a standard for sex-separate programming that is significantly weaker than that required by federal law, thereby misleading school officials . . . and exposing them and their school districts to the risk of costly litigation.”

The Rhode Island ACLU and the Women's Fund of Rhode Island called the bill an “incredible step backward” in violating the federal Title IX statute barring sexual discrimination in education.

Steven Brown of the Rhode Island ACLU said it is “distressing that the General Assembly would seek to turn the clock back more that forty years.”

Women's Fund of Rhode Island CEO Marcia Cone agreed. “By allowing sex discrimination in schools, our state is instead building barriers to the existence of equitable social and institutional systems where boys and girls can thrive and reach their full potential.”