School Demands Consent

PUBLISHED: 12:42 AM 14 Feb 2018

Children Told They Can’t Refuse, School Implements Mandatory Consent For Dance

They say this is an effort to promote kindness. What about teaching children, especially girls, they can say no?

Young girls at a Utah school are being taught that they cannot say 'no' to a male dance partner.

A Utah elementary school is sending a dangerous message to its youth by implementing a policy where students are forced to dance with another classmate if asked, mandating consent in the name of “kindness.”

One parent, Natalie Richard was appalled upon learning about the rule, especially since her daughter was left with the impression that she cannot “say ‘no’ to a boy.”

Richard’s sixth-grade daughter at Kanesville Elementary School in Salt Lake City, Utah, told her mother about the school rule, who at first did not believe it. She thought it had to be some sort of misunderstanding, as a school could not possibly insist that such a policy was appropriate.

She assured her daughter that the rule was not suggesting that she could not say ‘no,’ however later confirmed with her daughter’s teacher that it was. The teacher claimed that if asked to dance, a student “has to say yes.”

Horrified, Richard brought her concerns to the principal of the school who defended the rule, claiming that it had been in place for years and that it had never been an issue.

A Weber School District spokesperson, Lane Findlay, responded that the rule is intended to “promote kindness” by not denying another student a dance.

Even more strange, prior to the nonconsenting dance, students are to list five people they “want to dance with on a card” and will learn who their dance partners will be before the event.

However, the district contradicts itself, saying that if there is an issue with a potential couple, and one partner “is uncomfortable,” then it is to be worked out between parents and students.

Richard explains that while she understands that the school wants to foster an inclusive environment it is sending students “the wrong message,” in multiple ways.

Most importantly, it “sends a bad message to girls that girls have to say ‘yes’; sends a bad message to boys that girls can’t say ‘no.’” However, it also teaches children that they will not face rejection in life, which is extremely detrimental to their social and emotional development.

The school argued that the dance is optional, however that may not be realistic among preteens. Considering peer pressure, some students may feel obligated to attend in order to fit in, which would put some students in an undeniably uncomfortable situation.

The stipulation that a student can contest a potential partner is not practical either, as such a discussion between other students and their parents would put an already uncomfortable student in an even more awkward situation. Some may be more likely to just go ahead with the undesired dance partner, despite being strongly opposed to it.

Voluntary or not, Richard expressed that if the school is going to implement such a rule for a school event, that parents should be notified prior. The school agreed that this was reasonable and sent out permission slips to inform other potentially concerned parents.

Richard also added that there are many other ways in which the school can “promote kindness,” and not just at a “social dance.”

The school has yet to remove the rule from its list of traditions, and the rule will still be enforced at the dance this week.

Richard had reason to be upset about the policy, as other parents should be. Especially with #MeToo culture promoting awareness about consent and sexual assault, it is shocking that a school would implement a rule that carries a legitimate concern about raising a generation who does not respect personal decisions and boundaries in a romantic setting.

Considering that the dance celebrates Valentine’s Day, it is sure to come with romantic feelings, even in youth who may be experiencing their first crushes. However, some students just want to go and have fun with their friends, but the dance comes with unnecessary pressure.

Rules like the one at this Utah school should be discouraged at any school, as they send what Richard calls “impressionable children” messages about how things are in the ‘real world,’ when it is anything but that.

Arguably, the Weber County school could instead teach students how to respectfully decline an invitation to dance if they choose.

Negative publicity about Kanesville Elementary is sure to raise awareness about the ridiculous rule, though liberals are likely to be divided in their opinions of it. Some may see forcing children to consent as inappropriate, though others are likely to defend the rule, as it is the equivalent of a participation trophy for a social event in that no one is left out.

Richard did not indicate whether her daughter will attend the dance, or if she will dispute any of her dance partners. If she attends, hopefully, she and fellow classmates will have fun at the event but realize that it is not indicative of how all social engagements will be like.