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‘It’s manipulative’: Parents defend girl who ‘politely’ rejected autistic classmate’s Valentine’s Day request

The school came to the boy’s defence, but observers pointed out that the girl did nothing wrong by spurning his advances

Abe Asher
Thursday 02 March 2023 18:21 GMT
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Valentine's Day: Where does the tradition come from?

A debate has been sparked after a schoolgirl turned down a classmate’s Valentine’s Day request, prompting a wave of sympathy for her would-be suitor.

The controversy began when the boy’s mother, Heather Starr, wrote on Facebook that her son Roman, who is neurodivergent, had made a poster to ask a girl to be his Valentine. It didn’t go well.

“You guys. My oldest baby is 14, he has Autism, is very shy and socially awkward,” Ms Starr wrote in a post on Feburary 14. “Yesterday he made a poster for a girl at school and asked her to be his valentine at lunch in front of everyone. She said no.”

Ms Starr’s story got national attention — and plenty of sympathy for her son at the school.

The next day at school, a number of Roman’s classmates approached him with kind words and offers to be his Valentine. According to Today, one of his fellow students presented him with a poster like the one he had made to ask the girl the day before.

“They asked him to be their Valentine and he said yes,” Ms Starr wrote on Facebook. “Then the entire cafeteria cheered so loud that they disrupted nearby classes and everyone got in trouble and had to have a silent lunch period after that.”

The experience, Ms Starr said, was a highlight for her son.

“He told me it was one of the best days of his entire life,” she told Today.com.

After the story was given national exposure on the NBC platform, however, a number of observers pointed out that while they were happy for Roman, they were troubled by how the response might affect the girl he asked out.

Mandy, a TikTok user, made a video claiming that the boy is being “coddled,” while the girl who rejected his advance was being “demonised.”

“He’s a boy who asked a girl to be his Valentine, and she, from all sources I can find, politely declined,” Mandy said in the video. “He chose to do it in a very public way. We’ve got to stop teaching kids to do that. It’s maniuplative, because it puts the recipient on the f****** defensive. It puts them in a position where everybody is watching, and now you have to decide something in front of other people.”

Mandy said that the response to the story was “planting the seeds that if a girl says no to you, she’s beneath you” and that women are often bullied or even assaulted or killed for rejecting male romantic advances in a world in which men are often taught to feel entitled to women’s bodies.

Kris Renee, another TikTok user who made a video about the situation, said that she was teaching her children that they are entitled to respectfully decline anyone’s advances.

“Is anyone thinking about the fact of how the next day, that girl was made to feel guilty for having said no? Has that thought crossed anyone’s mind?”

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