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Seattle Parents Up in Arms Over Boys-Only Science Event

Girls like science, too

Published on: August 24, 2017

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Seattle parents are mobilizing after uncovering a surprising class listing in the Seattle Parks & Recreation fall class schedule.

Called "Sonsational: Mad Science," the event is designed for parents and their children to attend together. The one-time event is billed as a weekend activity including chemistry and engineering activities. It sounds like a blast, but there’s a catch — this class is reserved for boys only.

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Parents who emailed Seattle Parks & Recreation say they were told that the event was created to offer an option for boys that was similar to what was being offered to girls. The girls' event is described on the organization's website as a "daddy-daughter dinner." 

"I'm sorry but a girl fancy dinner (even if the theme is science) and a boy science afternoon are not equal events," says upset parent Julia Stack. "Maybe it's time to do away with the exclusive dad/daughter event. Boys and moms are apparently not allowed to sign up for that event. How can that be ok? What about non-traditional families?"

Stack isn't the only parent who isn't having it. Parents flocked to social media to share their concerns about the event.

"With the history of women and girls being excluded from the sciences, I find this class inappropriate,” one upset mom shared in a post on Facebook. “However well-intentioned, the gender segregation cannot help but reinforce dangerous message that science is for boys and not girls.”

It isn’t just about excluding daughters from one event, either. When it comes down to it boys get plenty of support in the sciences. If any group needs extra encouragement in this area, it’s girls — especially girls of color.

“Being a [woman of color] navigating that world while in grad school meant I had to be better and perfect before I was taken seriously,” shared another Seattle area Facebook user. “There doesn’t need to be boys-only science. Boys are already supported in STEM in ways that girls are not.”

Frustrated parents aren’t simply making their voice heard, they’re taking action. Their response? Enrolling their daughters in the event.

“I signed [my daughter] up,” Stack tells ParentMap. “At least I’ll bring my daughter and maybe I’ll make some friends, too.”

Seattle Parks & Recreation provided this statement to ParentMap: "This event was created in response to a community ask. The daddy-daughter dance has been well-loved for 25 years and in recent years there was been a request for an equivalent for sons. The truth is, both events have a mad-science theme, the daddy-daughter dance just happens to take place in the spring. In practice, both events are open to anyone. We have always accommodated those requests. The lesson learned for us is that, moving forward, we should use more explicit wording to communicate that inclusiveness."

The Ballard Community Center, where the event will be held, also took to social media to address parents' concerns on Wednesday. 

But the response wasn't positive. "As other posters have suggested, the best way to demonstrate inclusivity would be to rename and recategorize both events," emphasized one poster. "There's no reason that either [event] should be gendered."

"How about you fix it now for this year?" asked Stack. "Get us back to the 21st century."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to add a comment from Seattle Parks & Recreation, and the Ballard Community Center's statement.

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