The Short of It
A Pennsylvania middle school workshop aimed at reducing bullying has done exactly the opposite.
Parents are outraged after a so-called "kindness workshop" held at the West Allegheny Middle School made their children feel deeply uncomfortable by forcing them to answer very personal questions in front of their classmates.
- "Are you gay?"
- "Have your parents ever been to jail?"
- "Does your family have financial problems?"
- "Does anyone in your family have a drug or alcohol problem?"
These are the kinds of questions kids were asked during the session. They were also made to stand in a circle of their peers while wearing a mask and revealing personal things about themselves.
Pamela Brosovic, whose nephew attended the seemingly very misguided workshop, told Pittsburgh's Action News 4, "That's a violation, a huge violation. That's very personal stuff. Eighth-graders have a hard time right now. It's a crazy world. They get bullied in school. They get bullied on social media."
Parents are now saying bullies have been given more ammunition to target their kids. At least one student doesn't want to return to school because she is so upset by what happened.
For its part, the school district stands by claims the workshop was developed with students' best interests in mind. West Allegheny superintendent Jerri Lippert wrote a letter to Pittsburgh's Action News 4 that said in part:
"West Allegheny Middle School conducted an interactive kindness workshop for eighth grade students that promoted peer acceptance to proactively address issues of bullying amongst students in school and on social media related to body image, race, religion, and sexual orientation. Following each workshop, our facilitators reviewed student feedback and took appropriate actions by altering the remaining sessions. The intent of the workshop was to build a positive school culture and was not intended to offend any students. This activity was conducted, because we are advocating that all of our students be educated in a safe and nurturing environment, free of judgment, prejudice and bias, so they may learn and grow to their fullest potential. We appreciate feedback from students, parents and the West Allegheny community and take this feedback seriously as we strengthen our bullying prevention programs."
A meeting will also be held to address parents' concerns.
My blood is boiling thinking about my own kids being forced to participate in an activity like this. I remember how insecure kids feel in middle school, and how anything even slightly different about them can make them feel even worse. It should be up to each individual as to what they want to share with their peers and when. School administrators should be ashamed of themselves; in fact, maybe at the upcoming meeting they should be made to answer the same questions in front of the crowd!
What is your take?