UPDATE: Preschool says there was no ban on term 'best friend'

GEORGETOWN, Mass. — UPDATE May 2 -- In a posting online, the Pentucket Workshop Preschool called reports about this ban "mischaracterized." You can read their full statement below.

"Contrary to erroneous reports in the news media and on social media, Pentucket Workshop Preschool has no policy banning the use of the term, 'best friends'.  It is unfortunate that our best intentions have been mischaracterized".

For over 47 years, Pentucket Workshop Preschool has helped nurture young children by promoting kindness and respect. We continue that work by fostering a climate of acceptance.

Due to our commitment to confidentiality we will make no further statements.

ORIGINAL POST April 20: -- A local preschool is causing controversy by banning students from using the term 'best friend.'

Christine Hartwell said she is outraged after a teacher at Pentucket Workshop Preschool told her four-year-old daughter she couldn't call one of her classmates her "best friend."

The preschool defends their stance, saying banning the term promotes inclusion in the classroom, while Hartwell said it can end up having a negative affect on her daughter.

"How do you police a four-year-old from expressing their feelings?" said Hartwell. "It's outrageous, it's silly [and] it hurts."

Hartwell said she first learned of the ban after her daughter Julia came home from school one day acting differently. Julia told her mother she was upset because her teacher told her she couldn't call one of her classmates her "best friend."

"When I asked her what was wrong she said she was really sad about what her teacher did that day," said Hartwell.

Hartwell said her daughter is now hesitant to call anyone her best friend anymore.

Hartwell and her husband went to the director at Pentuket Workshop to find out more about this policy, which she said is not spelled out in the school handbook.

The preschool sent a letter to the Hartwell family in response to the issue, stating they've done research on the pros and cons of using the term "best friend," and that they'll continue to discourage children from using it in group settings.

The Director's letter says, in part:

"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,'"

Hartwell said not only do best friends allow kids to feel more secure at school, but that she's also pulling Julia from the preschool to find a new one where her daughter can still call someone her best friend.

"I want her to be able to express her thoughts and feelings in a healthy way, as children should," said Hartwell.

The school said they have no comment on this issue.

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