Kanesville Elementary dance

A photograph of the dance card being used at Kaneville Elementary School in West Haven. A parent of a sixth grader was upset her daughter was told she had to dance with any boy who wrote his name on her dance card.

Is anybody else weirded out by the fact that I’m the one having to be the voice of reason lately?

Must I always state the obvious to people for whom common sense and logic seem estranged bedfellows? People like:

• A mayor who uses his elected office in an attempt to pressure the local school district to change a school mascot.

• A GOP precinct chairman who wonders aloud whether it was such a good idea to have given women the right to vote in the first place.

• A bunch of motorists (736, to be exact) whose vehicles failed the county’s diesel emissions test because of deliberate tampering with pollution controls.

Frequently, the very definition of news is “things that just didn’t go quite right.” Someone makes a bad decision, pride or stubbornness compounds the problem, and before you can say “Hail to the Chief,” you end up with a situation that leaves normal people scratching their heads and wondering how anyone could have ended up in such a ridiculous predicament.

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But every once in awhile, news happens because everybody actually got it right. Occasionally, the stars align just so, and all parties in a dispute exhibit completely rational behavior.

That was the case this past week when news broke about the Valentine’s Day Dance at Kanesville Elementary School in West Haven. The school’s Feb. 14 dance for sixth-graders has been a longstanding annual tradition. But this year, the parent of a sixth-grader took exception to one of the “rules” of the dance: Students are instructed that if a classmate requests a dance, they shouldn’t say “no.”

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Natalie Richard, of West Haven, had a problem with that. She’s been trying to empower her two daughters to be strong, independent thinkers, and she was none too happy that the school comes along and tells her eldest that she can’t turn down a boy asking her to dance.

Richard went to the principal, whom we assume then went to the district, and the Weber School District did the right thing. Officials didn’t try to justify the rule, or minimize the parent’s complaint. They saw that it was a valid criticism, quickly talked it through, and changed the rule.

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Some on social media and in the news industry have tried to cast this as yet another backward practice from a backward state. The truth is quite a bit more nuanced.

For starters, the rule applied equally to both boys and girls — a fact some media outlets glossed over or ignored completely. Likewise, few stories bothered to explain the very admirable goal behind the rule: That all students feel wanted and included.

Indeed, the fact is that until Natalie Richard came along, nobody had really thought this through to its logical conclusion. While the idea was to make the dance inclusive for all, the unintended consequence was subtly telling girls they shouldn’t say no to boys. Which, given the importance of the current #MeToo movement, is a very real problem.

Sure, boys at the school weren’t supposed to say no to girls, either. But that doesn’t come with the same baggage it does for girls.

Besides, as a friend of mine points out, boys being taught they shouldn’t say “no” to girls is simply preparation for a happy marriage.

And contrary to what some are claiming on social media, nobody’s spoiling anybody’s fun here. Richard wasn’t asking the school to drop the dance entirely, she was only asking for a little backup while she tries to teach her daughters that they should never, ever feel that they can’t say “no” to a boy.

The fact remains — and the Weber School District quickly recognized this — that schools can still teach inclusion, sensitivity and kindness to students without giving the false impression that girls shouldn’t have the final word in their interactions with the opposite sex.

Because the second-to-last thing I’d ever want to see happen is my sixth-grade granddaughter getting the mistaken impression that a girl can’t or shouldn’t say “no” to a boy.

And the absolute, dead-last thing I’d ever want?

My sixth-grade grandson thinking the exact same thing.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

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