Father-daughter dances and mother-son hikes are about to become the latest social conventions to fall by the wayside in the Sacramento City Unified School District, where staff members and at least one elementary school are seeking ways to be more inclusive of nontraditional families.
Parents at Crocker/Riverside Elementary are pursuing a transition to more gender-neutral events, said PTA President Patrick Kuske, whose 11-year-old son attends the Land Park school.
“We used to do the father-daughter dance and mother-son hike,” Kuske said Tuesday. “Last year, it started to be about making all of those more gender-neutral. Parents were coming to the PTA saying, ‘We would rather these events not be pigeonholed.’ ”
The first change, Kuske said, is likely to materialize in the father-daughter dance. Kuske said “family dance” has been proposed as an alternative. The fundraising dance usually takes place each fall.
Principal Daniel McCord said he strongly supports the change and that it’s likely to be most visible in the 2017-18 school year. PTA tickets for next year’s school events go on sale in May, he said.
Sacramento City Unified has taken a lead making all children feel welcome. In 2013, it approved new guidelines to accommodate transgender students – those who identify with a gender different from their sex at birth.
The policy honors a transgender student’s desire to be addressed by a name and pronoun that correspond to his or her gender identity. And it specifies that students can’t be forced to use the restroom or locker room that corresponds to his or her birth sex.
Trustee Jessie Ryan, who chairs the school board’s policy committee, said the panel on April 7 will review the transgender policy and any other gender-related policies and regulations.
The aim, she said in a text, is to further strengthen supports for all students in the face of “the federal withdrawal of critical (student) protections.” The committee includes trustees Darrel Woo and Mai Vang, and the recommendation will be on a fast track to send to the full board for consideration, Ryan said.
Other Sacramento City Unified schools have gender-specific events. Genevieve Didion Elementary School in the Greenhaven/Pocket area has a father-daughter dance scheduled for Friday, while Leonardo da Vinci K-8 School in Hollywood Park has a mother-son dance scheduled for March 31, according to their websites.
McCord said PTA parents at Crocker/Riverside have been supportive so far about the change.
“It’s very much a recognition of what we may have classified as traditional family – mom, dad, boy, girl, dog and cat – is not the family situation we’re all living in anymore, if it ever was.”
Emilie Mitchell, whose son at Crocker/Riverside and daughter at California Middle School have two moms, offered similar sentiments. “That (traditional family event) can be hurtful to the kids of families that don’t look like that,” she said.
“Children are very egocentric in their thinking,” she said. So for a child in a nontraditional family, the message might be received as, “Your family doesn’t measure up.”
“That’s a tough message for kids,” she said.
Mitchell is a psychology professor who teaches human sexuality at American River College and is a lesbian. She said children of single parents and those who have two dads or two moms can, at times, end up feeling as though they are “on the outside looking in.”
Her daughter, now in the eighth grade, attended her own father-daughter dance some years back with the father of a friend, she said.
“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t put her in an awkward position,” she said.
At Phoebe Hearst Elementary School in East Sacramento, Principal Nathan McGill said the school events are already gender-neutral.
“We do have a family dance,” he said. “I don’t know if it was ever in place of a father-daughter dance.”
“Obviously we try to stay as neutral and as accepting as possible,” McGill said, noting that plenty of families are not stereotypical. “We have plenty of families that would not fit the typical male-female role.”