Are schools banning kids from saying they have a best friend?

WBZ-TV in Boston reported on the Pentucket Workshop Preschool in Georgetown, Mass., where the mother of an enrolled 4-year-old said her daughter was discouraged from using the term.

Christine Hartwell, the mother of 4-year-old Julia, told WBZ that she thought the practice was “ridiculous.” The school, she told the station, said the term can lead to feelings of exclusion and the formation of cliques.

Pentucket Workshop Preschool is a licensed day-care program serving children who are nearly 3 years old to 5 years old. The day care prides itself on educating its second generation of families, with a faculty possessing a combined 250 years of teaching experience with young children. And it says it emphasizes developing social-emotional skills and independence in kids.

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Hartwell was quoted as saying about her daughter: “Even now, she goes to say it in a loving way, ‘I’m going to see my best friend Charlie’ or this one or that, and she looks at me sideways. She’s checking in with me to see if it’s okay.”

The school did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In January, psychologist Barbara Greenberg wrote a piece in U.S. News & World Report saying:

I am always fascinated by trends. And I am especially intrigued by the emerging trend among European schools, and now some American schools as well, to ban best friends.
That’s right. Some schools are attempting to ban the entire concept of children having best friends.

The article didn’t mention the names of any schools, however. That didn’t stop a rash of media outlets from writing about the piece as if a ban on best friends was becoming common.

Many schools in the United States urge parents not to exclude their children’s classmates from an outside activity if most students are invited. That’s not the same as discouraging having a best friend or banning the use of the term on campus.

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Greenberg may have been referring to a Sept. 11, 2017, article in the British edition of Marie Claire magazine with this headline: “Prince George won’t be allowed to have a best friend at school.” The story said the private Thomas’s day school in Battersea — the school Prince William’s son attends — encourages students to have a lot of friends, and tells parents to invite all children to birthday parties.

A 2013 article in the British newspaper the Telegraph reported that there was no official policy at the Battersea school but that its headmaster, Ben Thomas, said there was “sound judgment” behind discouraging children from picking best friends. It quoted him as saying:

You can get very possessive friendships, and it is much easier if they share friendships and have a wide range of good friends rather than obsessing too much about who their best friend is. I would certainly endorse a policy which says we should have lots of good friends, not a best friend.

If anybody knows of a school with a policy banning kids from having or talking about having a best friend, please let me know.

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