Some Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania parents are outraged that their middle school children were brought to tears during an anti-bullying workshop in which the kids were actually being bullied.
During the workshop, eighth graders of West Allegheny Middle School were asked a series of very invasive personal questions about their family lives including whether they or someone they knew identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and whether they or someone in their family is from another country.
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They were also reportedly probed about their parents’ financial status with a question that asked whether they’ve ever worried about not having enough money. Other questions identified students whose family members had been to jail and/or had problems with addiction.
The school’s staff claims that the workshop was intended to stop bullying; possibly by establishing common ground between students who may learn they come from similar households and families.
However, parents feel like all the exercise did was open the floodgates for more bullying to take place.
“Your mom's in jail, your dad's a drunk, good Lord she gave the bullies ammo,” said Pam Brosovic who has a nephew at the school.
Although school officials sent a letter to parents notifying them of the workshop, it did not list the questions or even outline the topics students would be asked to discuss.
Parents are now threatening to sue the school for violation of the right to privacy, according to local attorney Robert Mielnicki, who said some of the angry parents have contacted him to represent them.
The school board maintains its position that the exercise was meant to be helpful: “We do stand behind the intentions of our workshop and we look forward [to] continuing our work with parents to address this very serious issue of bullying and the unintentional acts that continue to marginalize different groups of students,” school board president Debbie Mirich reportedly said.
The damage, however, has already been done. Parents are already furious that they had to console their crying children after taking part in the embarrassing, emotionally draining exercise.
“The damage they’ve done to our kids, how do you fix it?” parent Marie-Noelle Briggs reportedly asked following a three-hour meeting discussing the issue. “How do you fix what’s already been done?”
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Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Joe Skipper