Rich Middle School in Laketown, Utah, has gained national attention from a policy that forbids children to decline dances with other students.
The Laketown school caught the public eye after Alicia Hobson’s 11-year-old daughter, Azlyn, was forced to dance with a boy who makes her “uncomfortable.” At a Valentine’s Day dance, Azlyn was approached by the boy. After she politely declined the offer, Principal Kip Motta immediately stepped in.
“He said something like, ‘No, no. You kids go out and dance,’” Hobson said. “He basically shooed Azlyn and the boy off onto the dance floor.” Azlyn was distressed, and “hated every minute” until the song ended and she was allowed to separate herself. After weeks of anticipation, what Hobson said “was supposed to be the best day ever” was overshadowed by the non-consensual public display.
Neither Motta, nor Rich School District Superintendent Dale Lamborn have responded to e-mails seeking comment on the matter, but Motta doubled down on his decision in a letter sent to Azlyn’s mother. “We do ask all students to dance. It is the nice thing to do and this will continue to be our policy,” Motta wrote to Hobson on February 15. “There have been similar situations in the past where some students have felt uncomfortable with others, and, as stated prior, the issues were discreetly handled. This allowed all students to feel welcome, comfortable, safe, and included.”
Hobson then wrote a strongly-worded Facebook post on February 19, criticizing the decision. “NO MEANS NO,” she said, claiming that the boy “has been quoted as publicly saying something very disturbing of a sexual nature,” and defending her daughter’s body autonomy. “She has the right to say no to anyone for any reason or no reason. Her body is her body and if she doesn’t want to dance with someone, that’s her prerogative,” she said.
I understand that the spirit of the rule is give the kids the confidence to ask other kids to dance without the risk of rejection, but guess what? In life, you get rejected all the time. They need to get used to it and learn how to cope with their frustration. Girls HAVE to learn that they have the right to say no and that those around them have to respect that. I’m not going to quietly stand by while my daughter and all of her classmates are being wrapped up in rape culture. No way.
Having failed to draw an acceptable response from Principal Motta, Hobson plans to take her complaint to the Utah Board of Education. “I’ve told her over and over, since her school started having dances that she has the right to say no, and if she gets in trouble for it, I’ll fight like hell for her,” she said. “Well, here we go.”