Amy Peterson has considered herself both the mother and father to her 6-year-old daughter Gracie. So when it came time for Gracie’s father-daughter dance at her Georgia elementary school, the single parent was ready to put on a tie to be her child’s date.
But just an hour before the dance, Peterson was informed that moms weren’t allowed to attend, WSB-TV reports. Shortly after she posted a photograph of herself and her child getting ready for the dance on social media, the principal of Locust Grove Elementary School in Henry County, Georgia, called to tell Peterson that only dads or father figures could go to the dance, according to Peterson.
A Henry County single mom dressed up like a man so her daughter could go to a father/daughter dance. The school told her to stay home. @ 4 pic.twitter.com/kXO53390b7— Matt Johnson (@MJohnsonWSB) March 27, 2017
“[The principal] said, ‘No. I forbid you to come and if you show up we will turn you away,’” Peterson told WSB. That response came as a quite a shock, as Peterson said she filed paperwork a month prior, informing the school she would be her daughter’s date to the dance.
The Henry County School District issued a statement, confirming Peterson’s account and stating that the dance regulations stated that, “in lieu of a dad being available to attend, any family or friend father-figure could attend.” The school officials also stated that they apologized to Peterson and would refund her the $20 ticket fee.
But Peterson is more concerned about her daughter’s feelings. “How do you explain that to a 6-year-old? You can’t go to a dance because you don’t have a male role model in your life,” Peterson told WSB. “Why is she being punished because she doesn’t have a dad?”
The school district maintains it puts on multiple dances to accommodate different family structures, including a mother-son dance and sweetheart dance in which students can bring whomever they want.
“The school is cognizant that different dynamics exist across households in our school system,” the statement reads. “There are multiple parent engagement events and opportunities to participate with their kids annually at this school in an effort to make that connection and build school spirit.”
The school noted that other moms have made similar requests, and they have also been denied.
It’s not surprising that other parents have found themselves in Peterson’s situation, considering that the nuclear family makeup has changed in recent years.
The traditional family structure with two heterosexual parents has been on the decline for years. About 73 percent of kids were raised by two heterosexual parents in their first marriage in 1960. That figure dropped to 60 percent in 1970 and then to just 46 percent in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center.
Also, about one in four children under the age of 18 are raised without a father and there are more than 115,000 families with children in the U.S. parented by same-sex couples, according to the United States Census Bureau.
With family structures ever-evolving, Peterson has a simple solution the school can adopt to be more inclusive: change the theme to just a parent-child dance.