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Middle school says kids can’t autonomously turn down dance requests, mom fights for daughter’s right to say ‘no’

Screengrab Fox 13, KSTU

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Azlyn Hobson, an 11-year-old middle school student in Utah, was excited about her school’s planned Valentine’s Day dance.

At least, she was until the young girl said she was told she could not say “no” to any requests from other students to dance.

The girl’s mother, Alicia Hobson, shared how that made her feel while speaking with the Washington Post.

“She was so excited in the morning when she left,” Hobson said. “I asked if she got to dance with the boy she liked, and she did and she was happy. But in the same breath she was exasperated because she had to dance with the boy she hates.”

The mother explained that when her daughter tried to politely decline the invitation from other boy, the principal rushed over and told her saying “no” was against school rules.

“He was like, ‘You guys go dance. There’s no saying ‘no’ in here,’” Azlyn told local Fox affiliate KSTU.

“I just didn’t like it at all,” the student said. “When they finally said it was done, I was like, ‘Yes!'”

In speaking with Fox 13, Principal Kip Motta disputed that version of events.

“No one was forced to do anything,” Motta said. “All they had to do was communicate with me. That’s what we tell the kids all the time.”

The principal said that if students communicate to him, he handles it discretely.

“I also tell all the students during dance instruction that if they are uncomfortable with dancing with anybody at all, all they have to do is let me know. We’ve had that happen several times in the past,” he said.

Hobson shared the experience on Facebook under the title: “NO MEANS NO.”

“The point is that this kid makes my daughter feel uncomfortable,” she wrote. “She should not have to stand close to him with his hands on her if she doesn’t want to. 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.”

“Girls HAVE to learn that they have the right to say no and that those around them have to respect that,” Hobson would add. “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.”

She said Motta told her he is not changing the policy and that her option is to either accept it or keep her daughter home from school when they have school dances — the mother said she then contacted the district superintendent.

In a follow-up post, Hobson would stress that Rich Middle School “is fantastic” and was complimentary of the principal, but stood by her stance.

“It’s the best school I’ve ever seen,” she posted. “The principal is a devoted and caring principal. He’s as passionate about inclusion as I am about consent. This policy regarding the dances is obviously one I am very much against. I don’t want my child or any child to ever be put in a situation where they feel they cannot refuse physical contact with someone they don’t wish to have physical contact with.”

Motta told Fox 13 they are now reviewing their policies.

“The last thing in the world we want anybody to do is to feel uncomfortable, any student at all to feel uncomfortable, or feel threatened or feel at all unsafe,” he stated. “In that light, we are, when I say we the superintendent and myself, are reviewing this policy.”

Tom Tillison

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