Massachusetts preschool bans kids from using term 'best friend'

GEORGETOWN, Mass. -- Students attending one preschool in Massachusetts are not allowed to call each other "best friends."

Little Julia attends Pentucket Workshop Preschool in Georgetown. Like many 4-year-olds, she loves her dolls, arts and crafts and she has a best friend.

"She said you know so-and-so, you're my best buddy," Julia's mother, Christine Hartwell, told WBZ-TV. "The teacher told her that she couldn't say that there in school."

"Best friend" is not a term Julia can use at Pentucket Workshop Preschool.

"I think it's ridiculous," Hartwell said. "Children who are 4 years old speak from their heart, so they should be able to call kids anything loving - you're my best friend, you're my best pal."

The school explained to Hartwell that "the term best friend can lead other children to feel excluded," and it can "ultimately lead to the formation of cliques and outsiders," and the school encourages "students to have a wider group of friends."

"Although I think that words are really important and the term 'best' does have an implied meaning to it, I don't know if the right answer is necessarily denying children the ability to use that term," said Dr. Gregory Young, a pediatric psychologist.

Hartwell says Julia still says "best friend" at home, but her daughter seems unsure if the term is appropriate since she was told not to use it at school

"Even now she goes to say it in a loving way, 'I'm going to go see my best friend Charlie' or this one or that one, and she looks at me sideways as she's saying it," Hartwell said. "And she's checking in with me to see if that language is OK."

Hartwell says her daughter will not be going to school the rest of the year. Pentucket Workshop Preschool has not responded to a request for comment.

WBZ-TV contributed to this report.

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