The father-daughter dance ban in Cranston isn't just a hot local topic — it's being used as a political talking point in the run-up to the election.
Tonight, the School Committee is set to discuss the policy banning gender-specific events and could pass a resolution that would ask the local delegation in the State House to consider legislation that would modify state law and allow father/daughter and mother/son events as long as "there are comparable events for each gender."
In advance of the meeting, a mailing urging residents to go to tonight's meeting was sent to many residents by the Cranston Republican City Committee. In it, partial quotes in local media reports highlight Democrat School Committee members apparently defending the district's response to a letter from the ACLU on behalf of a mother who complained about a gender-specific event. After the ACLU letter, Superintendent Judith Lundsten sent out a memo instructing school leaders to make sure event planning was inclusive.
"Tell these School Committee members to STAND UP for you, not the ACLU," the mailing proclaims above a list of the phone numbers of School Committee members Andrea Iannazzi, Frank Lombardi, Stephanie Culhane and Janice Ruggieri. "Even Congressman David Cicilline, a former ACLU lawyer, calls the ban 'crazy.'"
Lombardi is competing against Republican Sean Gately for the House Dist. 26 seat and has been repeatedly attacked by Gately on the issue. In a recent press release, Gately said the School Committee "had months" to resolve this problem but "instead Frank Lombardi and his team decided to cave to the will of the ACLU."
In reality, the School Committee played no role in Lundsten's decision to ban gender-specific events. The issue with the ACLU was resolved more than four months ago and the ban only became active in the news cycle after Gately hammered on the issue.
Now that the committee could be asking the General Assembly for a change in laws, Gately said they're just "following my lead."
Gately said he has arranged for draft legislation to be prepared by a volunteer lawyer already and secured the support of GOP House and Senate leaders to submit legislation allowing father-daughter dances.
"They can just append their names to my submission," he said. "The one that has already been approved by General Assembly leadership."
Patch will be live blogging from the meeting tonight. Stay tuned.