EG Candidate Mark Co-Signed Father-Daughter Dance Letter To Cranston
In her role as president of R.I. NOW, School Committee candidate Carolyn Mark co-signed the letter with the ACLU urging Cranston schools to stop supporting gender-specific events.
Carolyn Mark, East Greenwich School Committee candidate, co-signed the now-famous letter sent last May to the Cranston School Department decrying a father-daughter-type dance at a public school there. Mark signed the letter, along with the ACLU's Stephen Brown, in her capacity as president of R.I. NOW.
The letter was in response to a mother’s complaint that the dance unfairly excluded her daughter, who she said had no adult male to accompany her.
“She called us to express concerns about an upcoming event that has been scheduled by the school PTO group. Although we do not expect anything to be done before that event takes place, both the ACLU and RI NOW share her concerns. We are therefore writing to request that you intervene to address this matter for future activities,” read part of the letter sent to former Cranston School Supt. Peter Nero and dated May 2, 2012. (Copies of the letter and the district's response were obtained from RI Future’s Bob Plain and are attached, right.)
At the time, an internal decision was made by Cranston to end the practice of father-daughter activities. The issue only became public on Monday, when Cranston candidate Sean Gately talked about it on WPRO’s Matt Allen Show.
Carolyn Mark, who was the top vote-getter in last week's Democratic primary for School Committee, responded to questions about her involvement in the Comments section of a story about the issue that ran on EG Patch Tuesday:
“When I learned that a single mom was feeling excluded from an event that, perhaps unwittingly, was framed in a way that would preclude non-traditional families from feeling welcome at the event, it concerned me. It also concerned me that the events the school was planning for the kids were stereotypical – a dance for girls, a sporting event for boys. In my capacity with RI NOW, I felt it appropriate to join with the ACLU in asking the school district to remind the community that school-based events need to be inclusive, which they readily agreed to do. And BTW, no school has to cancel its dances - they just need to reframe events so that everyone feels welcome,” she wrote.
In another comment, Mark wrote: “It’s not that I don’t think that fathers and daughters shouldn’t have opportunities to go to school dances together. I think that can be a lovely thing. But, I don’t think events should be framed in such a way as to make children feel uncomfortable if they don’t come from a traditional family and have no father to bring to the dance. That’s all. It matters what we call these things. I think East Greenwich has done a good job moving in the direction of being increasingly inclusive in these types of events.”
At least three of the four East Greenwich public elementary schools have non-gender-specific events for boys and girls. As mentioned in the EG Patch story Tuesday, Frenchtown has girls and boys night out events.
At Meadowbrook, according to Principal Neil Marcaccio, they have an event called a family dance. “It’s all inclusive,” he said.
At Hanaford, they have had a dance for girls and a sporting event for boys – with an adult of either gender welcome at both.
But even the dance-for-girls, sports-for-boys idea may be on its way out at Hanaford. Principal Beth Cauley said that last year a fifth grader questioned why girls always had a dance, saying she would prefer a sports event. Cauley worked with the student to develop a questionnaire for the girls about what activity they’d prefer.
“It was almost 50-50,” said Cauley Wednesday, with the girls wanting a dance numbering only slightly more than the girls wanting a sports-theme event. Cauley said it could be the PTG will decide to alternate the theme, dance one year, sports the next, but said it was up to them.
East Greenwich Patch was unable to reach Eldredge School to learn its approach to the issue.
School Committee Chair Deidre Gifford said she didn’t think there was a district-wide policy addressing such events. Typically, while they are sanctioned by the various schools, these activities are run and financed by school parent-teacher groups.
For her part, candidate Mark said her position on the Cranston guy-girl dance played no role in her decision to run for School Committee in East Greenwich. “My primary concern is making sure our kids get a great education,” she wrote.