Hundreds Of Middle School Students Were Asked Personal Questions In Anti-Bullying Exercise Gone Horribly Wrong
Parents of eighth grade students at West Allegheny Middle School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are furious after learning their children took part in an anti-bullying course they say gave "ammunition" to bullies.
Students were asked a wide variety of intimate and personal questions related to their personal status and that of family members in what was called a "Kindness Workshop."
Students were told to stand in a circle and place masks over their faces, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. They were asked to step forward if “you or someone close to you has been impacted by alcohol or drugs,” or “you or someone close to you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender,” or “you or your family has ever worried about not having enough money,” or “you or someone close to you has been imprisoned.”
The teens were also asked if they come from various ethnic backgrounds and the education levels of their family members.
Schools superintendent Jerri Lynn Lippert said the decision to hold the multi-day workshop came in response to middle schools administrators concerns over "significant student issues." She added that "some of those were definitely intentional acts of bullying, but there were also many unintentional acts ... perpetuating common stereotypes on certain groups of students who are traditionally marginalized."
A letter sent to parents explained the workshop was conducted "in response to specific incidents around bullying including but not limited to racial and religious insensitivity as well as body image and sexual orientation."
But parents are concerned and looking for answers.
West Allegheny parent Marie-Noelle Briggs accused the administration of giving “more ammunition to bully,” and wants to know why teachers and not trained psychologists were used as facilitators.
“All they did was give the bullies more ammunition,” Briggs told KFOR. “I would never expect a middle school to ask 13-year-old kids if your parents have ever been in jail, if they’re same-sex, if they’re having financial issues. Why would my 13-year-old son know any of this?”