An Orange County, Florida public elementary school has become the target of a Change.com petition after its parent-teacher association announced a STEM evening event only for its male students and their mothers.

The petition, which has 673 signatures, was started by Helena Zubkow, a web developer at Audubon Park Elementary School.

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In it, she notes that Title IX mandates that boys and girls have access to the same educational opportunities. (In this case, it seems that the comparable opportunity, according to the school, is a father-daughter dance.)

“Women in STEM fields are still outnumbered like crazy,” Zubkow told MTV News. “In my C++ programming class in college, I sat down on the first day and I was the only girl in the class. The guy next to me looked over and he said, ‘Oh sorry, this is the C++ room.”

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“As a woman in tech myself,” she said, “I was like, no way is this gonna happen.”

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“A dance is a social function,” Zubkow writes in the petition. “While sentimental, it is devoid of academic merit. A STEM night is an academic function that seeks to accelerate interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. These are NOT reasonably comparable activities and should not be construed as such. the implication of the message that a child should be non-electively sorted into a social activity vs. an academic one based on his or her gender is sexist and abhorrent.”

Apparently, the school’s rationale for the separate events was that there was not enough room in the museum for all the children.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Daniel Plumey, president of the Orange County Council of PTAs said they were trying to find an activity boys would want to do.

“The boys don’t want to dance,” he said.

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“Orange County Public Schools supports parent organizations that produce extracurricular and social activities for students,” said a representative of the school system in a statement. “PTA and PTO groups hold traditional as well as unique events for the benefit of their school community that often complement the academic programs.”

“The district does not direct the activities of the PTAs but will consult regarding decisions, to avoid misunderstandings,” the statement continues. “It is the district’s understanding that girls will not be prohibited from attending the Audubon Park Elementary School PTA event.”

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Updated: A previous version of this story said that Zubkow was a mother of two; she has no children.

Additionally, the Audubon Park PTA provided Jezebel with the following statement:

Last year we had an overwhelmingly positive response to our Sweetheart (Father figure/daughter) dance. There has never been an event to create as much participation and excitement at our school. It was obvious to us that we needed to offer it again this year. We also learned from much feedback after that event that our community was eager for us to also offer an event for boys to attend with their mothers or special female figures (i.e. aunts, grandmothers, etc.). So, we sent a survey to the entire school, and we used the information we received in planning our events.

The school offers a quarterly STEM day during regular school hours and a STEM club after school every other week. In addition, the school will host a science night for all students onFebruary 19, 2016.

To clarify points that you may have heard or read in the media:

- This is a PTA sponsored event and it therefore does not fall under the guidelines of the Title IX of the federal Education Amendments of 1972.

- Girls were not excluded from this event. This is a social event intended to fulfill the request from our school community for a mother figure/son event. Girls would not be prohibited from attending the event if so desired.

We are grateful for the support that we have received from OCPS and OCCPTA. We continually encourage parents and community members to join PTA to participate and have input in our programming.

Audubon Park Elementary PTA Executive Board


Contact the author at joanna@jezebel.com.

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