MARION COUNTY, Fla. - A school event known as Donuts for Dads left some Marion County mothers in tears -- and not in a good way.
Hammett L. Bowen Jr. Elementary School hosted the event Friday morning, and some mothers who came to support children without fathers said they were forced to leave.
The school district told Channel 9 that only men were allowed at the event.
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The mothers Channel 9 spoke with said they feel their children were put in a position to be bullied or teased for not having a dad at the event.
The district said the children were still able to eat doughnuts and were never separated from the group.
Ashley Arroyo said she plays the role of mother and father in her children's lives, but Marion County Public Schools made her children feel bad about not having their father around.
"Their biological father chooses not to be in their life," she said. "So let's go ahead and shame a child for their dad trying not to be in their life?"
Arroyo said she visited the school Friday to be there for her children, but the school's principal stopped her at the front office.
"They said, 'I'm sorry. This is for dads only.' I said, 'Excuse me? My kids don't have a dad,'" she said.
DONUTS FOR DADS: Some Marion County moms say they weren't allowed to stay and support their kids who don't have fathers during Donuts for Dads at school last week. Why the district says it will only allow men at the event on @WFTV at 5:15 p.m. pic.twitter.com/iYymW1W1TK— Lauren Seabrook (@LSeabrookWFTV) December 10, 2018
The school district said the event is part of its Strong Fathers Strong Families initiative, which encourages the involvement of male figures in students' lives.
"They said, 'You're not a guy. You're not a male figure,'" Arroyo said. "I said, 'Well, that's kind of messed up.'"
The school said it would allow other male role models to join the children but not mothers.
"Some of these kids don't have a grandfather. Some of these kids don't have an uncle," Arroyo said.
She said she and other mothers were left in tears, including a woman who said she has a protection order against her children's father and a woman who said her children's father is deployed overseas.
"They're making a lot of these kids feel bad, and then they wonder why kids are distracted and feeling sad for the day," Arroyo said. "They don't understand what's going through these kids' minds."
The district said it holds a Muffins for Moms event later in the school year.
The women who spoke with Channel 9 said a generic event for parents or loved ones would be more appropriate because not all students have mothers in their lives.
Channel 9 asked the school district what it's policy is for parents who are transgendered, but it hasn't heard back yet.
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