|NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- A school district in Rhode Island banned father-daughter dances and mother-son baseball outings because the events are gender exclusive, drawing significant backlash and a call to change a state law.
"I acknowledge many of these events have long traditions and for many parents these types of gender-based events are not an issue," Judith Lundsten, superintendent of Cranston Public Schools, wrote to school organizations.
"However, this is a public school system and under no circumstances should we be isolating any child or their family from full participation in school activities and events based on gender," Lundsten wrote.
The decision came in response to a complaint last May from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a single mother whose daughter could not attend a father-daughter dance because she did not have a father in her life.
In addition to father-daughter dances, the school traditionally organized a mother-son outing to a Pawtucket Red Sox baseball game.
Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island ACLU, wrote in a statement Sept. 18 that parent-teacher organizations "remain free to hold family dances and other events, but the time has long since passed for public school resources to encourage stereotyping from the days of Ozzie and Harriet."
"Not every girl today is interested in growing up to be Cinderella -- not even in Cranston," Brown wrote. "In fact, one of them might make a great major league baseball player someday."
Cranston Mayor Allan Fung said Sept. 18 he was "utterly disappointed to have such a time-honored tradition under attack in the name of political correctness."
"Traditions like this are what make up the fabric of our childhood memories and definitely contribute to the wellbeing of our children as a whole," the mayor said.
Federal law exempts father-son and mother-daughter activities when banning discrimination, but in Rhode Island, the law could be interpreted to mean all school functions must be gender inclusive.
Cranston School Committee chairwoman Andrea Iannazzi said the committee soon will consider a resolution asking lawmakers to modify state law to allow the school district to preserve father-daughter dances, according to the Providence Journal Sept. 19.
'BERLIN PATIENT' PROMOTES GENE THERAPY AIDS CURE -- The lone man who claims to have been cured of AIDS through gene therapy says he hopes others infected can be similarly treated, but doctors are still testing whether gene therapy can cure the disease.
In the treatment, doctors would transplant stem cells from a donor with a certain cell feature that provides natural resistance to HIV infection. The treatment has not involved stem cells from embryos but from adults.
Timothy Ray Brown, 46, of San Francisco, called "The Berlin Patient" because of where he was treated, appeared Sept. 12 at a gene therapy symposium at Washington University in St. Louis, accompanied by Gero Hutter, the doctor who treated him.
While some doctors are skeptical Brown is cured, Brown and Hutter said the passage of time since the 2007 surgery and the fact Brown has not needed HIV drugs since his operation, further support he is cured, the Associated Press reported.
Brown's case was first reported in 2008 and included in the New England Journal of Medicine the following year. While Brown says he feels great, doctors in California this year found traces of HIV in Brown's tissue. The discovery led to speculation that the disease had returned, but Brown said the traces are only remnants of HIV that cannot replicate nor cause a recurrence.
Washington University's Biologic Therapeutics Center sponsored the symposium as part of its work to advance the use of gene therapy. Gene therapy has helped treat other diseases, including cancer and hemophilia, symposium speakers said.
Brown is involved in a foundation named for him that seeks a cure for HIV. An estimated 1 percent of the northern European population has the particular cell feature that provides natural protection from HIV.
VA. BOARD TOUGHENS RULES FOR ABORTION CLINICS -- Virginia abortion clinics will have to abide by more stringent building regulations to meet health and safety standards called for by a 2011 law, according to a new state agency decision.
In a Sept. 14 meeting, the Virginia Board of Health voted 13-2 to require all abortion clinics to abide by the state's building standards for hospitals. The vote amounted to a reversal of the board's June decision to exempt existing clinics from the rules.
After the Board of Health voted not to apply the law's standards to existing clinics, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli refused to certify the regulations. Cuccinelli's office announced in July the board did not have the authority to approve such rules.
The law is the first in the country to mandate such regulations for clinics performing first trimester abortions.
Upon the 2011 law's enactment, abortion rights advocates heavily criticized the standards. They alleged the guidelines, which included size requirements for hallways, might result in the closing of 17 of the state's 21 abortion clinics.
Supporters of abortion expressed strong disapproval after the Board of Health's latest vote, but pro-life advocates commended the decision.
"The hysterical claims of the abortion industry that today's vote denies access to health care are simply untrue. Today's decision simply requires the industry to clean up its act," said Victoria Cobb, the Virginia Family Foundation's president. "These centers can continue to offer any other service they provide even they can't meet these reasonable guidelines. They simply have to stop performing surgery unless they meet these standards."
Casey Mattox, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said, "Abortion clinics should be held to the same health and safety standards as all other medical facilities. Their resistance to such standards exposes their real attitude toward women."
The ACLU of Virginia criticized the board's actions, saying the regulations "will make abortions more expensive and more difficult to obtain particularly if some clinics are forced to close."
All nine members of the board appointed by current Gov. Bob McDonnell voted for the regulations. Four appointees by former, pro-choice Gov. Tim Kaine approved the rules, while two of Kaine's appointees opposed them.
The board's Sept. 14 vote came only two days after the Family Foundation released a report from the state's Department of Health that showed nine abortion clinics had received 80 citations, including for issues related to infection prevention, equipment and personnel.
The permanent regulations approved by the board still must undergo review by the offices of the attorney general and governor before a public comment period and final decision by the Board of Health. Emergency regulations adopted last year for the law are now in effect.
MO. LAWMAKERS OVERRIDE VETO OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM BILL -- The Missouri legislature voted Sept. 12 to overturn a veto of legislation designed to protect the religious liberties of employers and employees against the contraceptive/abortion mandate included in the health care reform law supported by the Obama administration.
The Senate voted 26-6 for the override, while the roll call in the House of Representatives was 109-45, according to the Associated Press. A two-thirds majority was required to overcome Gov. Jay Nixon's veto. Continued...