In the era of the #MeToo Movement, it was incredibly disturbing for parents to learn that an 11-year-old girl who politely told a boy that she didn’t want to dance with him at a middle school dance was forced to dance with him anyway — and by none other than her principal.
Alicia Hobson shared that her daughter Azlyn couldn’t wait until the school’s Valentine’s Day dance, which organized by her Utah school. In fact, she had picked out her special outfit a week beforehand and the anticipation was overwhelming.
“She was so excited she could barely sleep. It was supposed to be the best day ever.”
Sadly, that day was completely ruined for her.
Alicia described the boy as someone who “makes my daughter uncomfortable.” When he asked her to dance and she replied, “No thank you,” the principal who overheard their conversation informed her that she wasn’t allowed to say no and had to dance with the boy.
“This boy has been quoted as publicly saying something very disturbing of a sexual nature. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. It doesn’t matter if rumors are terrible and should be dismissed. That’s irrelevant. The point is that this kid makes my daughter feel uncomfortable. She should not have to stand close to him with his hands on her if she doesn’t want to. She has the right to say no to anyone for any reason or no reason. Her body is her body and if she doesn’t want to dance with someone, that’s her prerogative.”
When Azlyn arrived home after the daytime dance, she had an “emotional explosion” in the kitchen as she recounted to her mother what had happened.
At Rich Middle School in Laketown, Utah, it’s against the rules to tell a potential dance partner “no.”
“He basically shooed Azlyn and the boy off onto the dance floor.”
Azlyn was distraught telling her mom about the scary encounter. She told her mom that she “hated every minute” and was “so relieved” when the song ended and she could scamper away from the boy.
“I understand that the spirit of the rule is to give the kids the confidence to ask other kids to dance without the risk of rejection, but guess what? In life, you get rejected all the time. They need to get used to it and learn how to cope with their frustration. Girls HAVE to learn that they have the right to say no and that those around them have to respect that. I’m not going to quietly stand by while my daughter and all of her classmates are being wrapped up in rape culture. No way. I’ve told her over and over, since her school started having dances that she has the right to say no, and if she gets in trouble for it, I’ll fight like hell for her. Well, here we go.”
Alicia contacted the principal, Kipp Motta, who insisted he would not change the school policy. He told her she could accept it or keep Azlyn home from school whenever they have a dance.
“We do ask all students to dance. It is the nice thing to do and this will continue to be our policy. There have been similar situations in the past where some students have felt uncomfortable with others, and, as stated prior, the issues were discreetly handled. This allowed all students to feel welcome, comfortable, safe, and included.”
Infuriated with his unyielding stance, Alicia emailed the superintendent and relayed the exchange between herself and the principal. He didn’t respond either even though he was copied on all of Alicia’s emails with the principal. Today contacted the superintendent, Dale Lamborn, and he didn’t respond either.
If the school doesn’t rescind its policy, Alicia said she will take the issue before the Utah Board of Education.
“I’m so angry right now for all the kids in that school. Why can’t they just have a fun school dance and not be forced to dance with kids they don’t want to dance with? What if my daughter doesn’t feel safe with the boy who asks her? This policy makes a lot of kids uncomfortable. The principal stated to me multiple times that my family is not the first to complain and that many kids have felt uncomfortable with it, but they just checked their kid out of school or submitted to the policy. That’s unacceptable. NO MEANS NO.”
Dr. Rebecca Schrag Hershberg, a New York City-based clinical psychologist, told Today that such a rule is “dangerous.”
“Policies like this one not only overlook, but completely fly in the face of, what we need to be teaching young children — of all gender identities — about the importance of consent. Essentially, it is saying that a child needs to say ‘yes’ no matter how they feel, as a blanket rule. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that such a message is very much in alignment with rape culture and, therefore, very dangerous if perpetuated.”
Angie Fuda Davis, a mom of only boys, shared on Facebook that her sons have talked about how they worry about being rejected at a school dance. She basically told them “tough.”
“I told them to take chances of asking, because you never know. If rejected, then that’s life. This policy is ridiculous! You fight like HELL, MOM!!!”
Chris Thomas noted on Facebook that the principal’s stance is not okay.
“Surely he can think of other ways of boosting the confidence in teen and pre-teen boy/girl interactions that do NOT violate anyone’s personal body boundaries. With all the push for consent these days you’d think he’d listen to concerned parents.”
As of Feb. 27, Alicia was told that the school would be revaluating its rule. While the intent of the policy seems to be to protect others’ feelings in a world full of bullies, it appears to have the opposite effect and has created an environment where boys are being allowed to demand that girls cave in and dance closely with them. What do you think about it?
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