(KUTV) — Kanesville Elementary in West Haven addressed a recent controversy stemming from the school's longstanding tradition of hosting a 6th grade Valentine's Dance in which students are not allowed to decline an invitation to dance.
A number of parents were concerned with the precedents set by the dance's rules. Natalie Richard, a mother of a sixth-grader at the school, worries that the dance rules tell girls that they have to say "yes" and tells boys that girls can't say "no."
According to the school's principal, this particular dance has been operating as such for "many years" and is meant to teach children to be inclusive.
The school issued a statement on Tuesday, addressing the concerns raised by some parents in the community.
Students who choose to participate in the Valentine's Day dance (participation is optional) are taught different styles of dance prior to the event. Students also receive instruction on proper etiquette and what is expected of them if they choose to participate.
The sixth-graders are then given a "dance card," which contains a number of lines whereupon students can write down the names of classmates they would like to dance with. Half of the selections are girl's choice and the other half are boy's choice.
"Students are told by their teacher that if a classmate asks to be on their card, they should be polite and respectful, and agree to dance with that person," a news release states. "This applies to all students regardless of gender."
The purpose of this, the news release states, is to encourage more interaction and an atmosphere of inclusivity.
Some parents feel that learning to deal with rejection is a natural part of socialization, and to force inclusivity on children will give them unrealistic or even dangerous expectations.
In response to parents who are concerned about the implications of the dance's rules, the school said they "certainly understand the concern and would never want to promote a mindset where students feel like they have the option to say no."