Wisconsin School's Invasive Anti-Bullying Program Angers Parents

Thursday, 13 Feb 2014 07:34 PM

By Joe Schaeffer

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Parents of students at a Wisconsin middle school are up in arms about an anti-bullying "game" that forced 10- and 11-year-olds to answer personal questions such as whether anyone in their family had been to jail or whether they had ever contemplated suicide.

The students at Marinette Middle School in the northeastern part of the Badger State played a classroom game at the end of last month called "Cross the Line." The activity "is used by some schools to build awareness and in some cases prevent bullying among students," Fox 11 News reports.

"A set of questions are asked and while in a group, students step forward or cross the line when answering yes to the question," Fox 11 reports.

A list of the questions was provided to the EagleHerald, a local newspaper. The list starts off with innocuous questions, instructing students to cross the line if they "Enjoy sports," or "Enjoy school."

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But as the game continues, students are instructed to cross the line if they "Ever felt embarrassed about how much money your family has" or "Have more than 4 kids living in your house."

As the list continues, the questions turn even more personal, with students being told to cross the line if they've "Ever been afraid at home," "Ever had such negative thoughts that you contemplated suicide," "Experienced the effects of alcoholism in your family" or "Have had a family member go to jail."

Parents expressed outrage over the invasive questioning.

"This kind of stuff, this can't happen again. These are our little kids. We're parents. We should've been protecting them. You should've [given] us the benefit of the doubt of contacting us," Lori Saunier, mother of a seventh-grade student, told Fox 11.

A local psychotherapist defended the program.

"Often times we don't give them enough credit. I think that children in a 5th grade, 6th/7th grade are very much deep thinkers and their brains are developing enough where they can go into analytical thought," Brad Bordini of Bellin Behavioral Health told the station.

Kristen Edgar, whose 10-year-old daughter attends the school, wasn't buying that.

"[My daughter] came home and she said. 'Mom, I can't believe how many girls that are actually thin stood up and said they'd look better if they lost weight and I can't believe how many kids stepped forward and said they didn't like what they saw in the mirror.' I mean, children shouldn't be even thinking about those things and they shouldn't be asked about stuff like that," Edgar told Fox 11.

The "Cross the Line" anti-bullying program has been used by many schools and universities over the past few decades, and dates back to a Stanford University program developed around 1985, according to a University of North Carolina planner.

The activist website Training for Change states the purpose of the game is "To increase awareness of difference in the group" and "To increase awareness in individuals of their own issues around difference."

Concerned Marinette Middle School parents plan on attending a school board meeting on February 18 to further discuss the issue, Fox 11 reports.

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