Parents are outraged after a preschool in Massachusetts banned children from using the term “best friend.”
Mum Christine Hartwell told Boston 25 News that her four-year-old daughter Julia came home upset after her teacher at Pentucket Workshop Preschool in Georgetown, Massachusetts told her she couldn’t refer to any of her classmates as her “best friends.”
“When I asked her what was wrong she said she was really sad about what her teacher did that day,” her mum recalled.
According to Hartwell, Julia said her teacher had told her she couldn’t call someone her best friend - and now Julia was afraid to call anyone her best friend.
Upset over the “outrageous” and “silly” announcement, Hartwell searched for any rules or guidelines that backed up the policy in the Pentucket Workshop Preschool handbook and found none.
Then she went to the director of her daughter’s school.
But rather than appease her concerns, the director of the school sent a letter to the Hartwells, according to Boston 25 News, stating that they’d done their “research” about kids using the term best friend and found it might be hurtful.
Backing the teacher and standing by the decision, the director said they were going to be discouraging children from using the term at school and in group settings - as banning “best friends” can promote inclusion.
A portion of the letter reads: "It has been our experience (which spans decades) that the use of the term 'best friend,' even when used in a loving way, can lead other children to feel excluded [...] which can ultimately lead to the formation of 'cliques' and 'outsiders.'”
This isn't the first time a school has attempted to ban the use of the word - or supported the idea that it should be. In 2013, the headmaster of a prep school, Ben Thomas, said: “I would certainly endorse a policy which says we should have lots of good friends, not a best friend" and "These obsessive friendships can be very hurtful for those who are left out of them, and ostracising is as painful as physical bullying."
Since the announcement, the mum has decided to find a new preschool for her daughter, where four-year-old Julia will be able to use the term “best friend” freely - and people agree with her decision.
“Insane. I’m so sick of hearing that people might be offended. Grow a spine and suck it up. Not everyone is going to like you or be your best friend. Learn the lesson when you are little so you can grow up and be a normal adult,” wrote one person on Facebook.
Another agreed. They wrote: “Ridiculous! As director of a childcare centre in Newburyport, Ma, I hear my preschoolers saying: ‘You’re my best friend’ many times a day. In my experience children use this as a way of saying ‘I like you’ and will say it to many different friends. Telling a child they may not use a friendly term, in my opinion, hinders their thoughts and feelings that are exclusively their own. We encourage it as it should be.”
As for Hartwell’s feelings, she just wants her daughter to have a normal preschool experience.
“I want her to be able to express her thoughts and feelings in a healthy way, as children should,” she said.
The Independent has contacted Pentucket Workshop Preschool for comment.
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