About Shawnta S. Barnes

Shawnta S. Barnes works in Indianapolis for the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township as an elementary library/media specialist and for Marian University as an adjunct professor. Previously, she has served as an elementary and high school literacy coach, a middle and high school English/Language Arts teacher, and K-5 English as a New Language teacher. Shawnta is an education writer for Indy K12, a publication under the Citizen Education network. She is also the winner of the 2019 Indiana Black Expo Excellence in Education Journalism Award.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.  Besides being bombarded with reminders to agree to bring an item for the Valentine’s Day class party on Sign-Up Genius, parents are also sent flyers about the father and daughter dance.  As our society continues to change, our schools remain stagnant and keep hanging onto antiquated ideas. I assert father and daughter dances are one of those ideas.

I will admit, as a mother of twin sons, I have attended a mother and son dance.  It was not a school-sponsored event, but an event I attended to spend time with my sons.  I think it is great that schools are joining in and providing opportunities for parents to spend quality time with their children, but these opportunities shouldn’t be limited to certain groups.

I wonder how many schools that have a father and daughter dance offer the reverse such as a mother and son dance.  Even when a school offers both a father and daughter dance and a mother and son dance, it also excludes children who may live in a single parent home with a parent of the same gender.  Are schools suggesting it is not appropriate for mom and daughter to boogie on the dance floor? We know that some children do not live with their mom or dad. What about children that live with a grandparent? Instead of having these specific and narrowly targeted dances, I believe it would be better to have a family dance.  

Last year, my husband, my sons, and I attended a family sweetheart dance hosted by our local YMCA.  Regardless of your family structure, you could attend the dance and show love for your children. At the dance, I saw a boy with his two moms. I also saw children dancing with both their parents.  We all got to participate in group dances such as the Cha Cha slide and of course the DJ had to play The Village People’s song YMCA. Everyone was included which allowed everyone an opportunity to bond and have fun.

We tell families that schools are inclusive, but yet we still have activities that exclude families.  Actions show the truth of your words. My hope is that schools not only evaluate having father and daughter dances but also evaluate other programs and events and how they can make them more inclusive.  

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