HENRY COUNTY, Ga. — A single mother says she was banned from going to her daughter's father-daughter dance at a Henry County elementary school.
Amy Peterson said her 6-year-old daughter, Gracie, had been looking forward to the dance for months, and without a father in her life, Peterson decided to take Gracie herself.
“To me, I’ve identified myself as her father and her mother because that’s what I’ve done for six years,” Peterson told Channel 2’s Matt Johnson.
She says it hasn't always been easy for her daughter's kindergarten classmates at Locust Grove Elementary to understand.
“Had one kid tell her she didn’t have a dad because she's fat and ugly,” Peterson said.
So when the school announced a daddy daughter dance, Peterson didn't want her daughter to miss out.
She says she filed paperwork a month before Friday’s dance to say she would be the parent going with her daughter.
She and her daughter Gracie even came up with the idea for Peterson to dress up like a man.
“She was okay with it. She was excited that her friends were going to get to see this,” Peterson said.
Just after taking this picture about an hour before the dance, she says the school's principal called her.
“She said, ‘No. I forbid you to come and if you show up we will turn you away,’” Peterson said.
With no other options, Peterson says she told her daughter they couldn't go.
“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,” she said. “I think they handled it poorly. They shouldn’t have turned any parent away.”
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In a response, Henry County schools told Johnson, “The school is cognizant that different dynamics exist across households in our school system. 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 district says other mothers asked about attending the dance but they were told only a father figure could attend.
Peterson says that leaves children like Gracie feeling left out.
“They're already being bullied. Why be bullied by the school too?” she said. “Why is she being punished because she doesn’t have a dad?”
The district says there's also a mother-son dance and a sweetheart’s dance around Valentine’s Day. Peterson said that’s not enough.
“If you don’t want things like this happening, put parent-child dance. Don’t put a stipulation on it's a mom or a dad,” she said.
The district says the school offered an apology and $20 refund, but Peterson denies that happened.
The school district’s full response is below:
"Per my conversation with school administrators, the mom was spoken to in advance of the dance. An apology was also issued and a refund was pledged in reference the money spent for entry into the dance. There were a few other mothers who inquired as to being allowed in the dance, and they were informed of the same stipulations.
"It was explained that the dance announcement indicated that in lieu of a dad being available to attend, any family or friend father-figure could attend. There are three different dance events the school hosts throughout the year to include everyone. There is a mother-son dance, a father-daughter dance, and sweetheart dance that includes students and anyone they wish to bring.
"The school is cognizant that different dynamics exist across households in our school system. Anyone with a question as to the requirements or specifics of any school extracurricular event is encouraged to reach out to a school official or teacher. 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."
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