By Gary Brode, WBZ-TV

GEORGETOWN (CBS) – Julia Hartwell loves her dolls, arts and crafts and like most four-year-olds, she has a best friend. However, that’s not a term Julia can use at Pentucket Workshop Preschool in Georgetown.

Her mother, Christine Hartwell says, “The teacher told her she couldn’t say that there in school.”

Christine Hartwell calls it “ridiculous.”

“Children who are four years old speak from their heart,” she says. “They should be able to call kids anything loving. You’re my best friend. You’re my best pal.”

The Georgetown preschool offered an explanation to Julia’s parents. Saying the term best friend “can lead other children to feel excluded” and it “can ultimately lead to the formation of “cliques” and “outsiders.”

The preschool wrote, they “encourage children to have a broader group of friends, and foster inclusion at this particular age.”

Hartwell says, even though it has been more than a month since the incident at school, it’s still sticking with 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,” Hartwell says. “She’s checking in with me to see if it’s OK.”

WBZ reached out to Pentucket Workshop Preschool for comment. So far, we have not heard back.

UPDATE 4/26: Preschool Says No Policy Bans ‘Best Friends’

Comments (17)
  1. I was very sorry to see the story you chose to run on Pentucket Workshop Preschool. Pentucket Workshop is a fabulous early childhood school with decades of a solid and well deserved reputation. About 20 years ago I owned a child care center in Georgetown. Pentucket Workshop and I had a great working relationship. I had a lot of respect for them back then, as I do now. They continue to have a dedicated staff that offers the children a rich play-based curriculum in a developmentally appropriate way. My granddaughter has attended there the past 3 years and it has been a great experience all around. Her younger sister will be going there when she is preschool age.

    I know PWS has been having a friendship and cooperation theme lately. I have a strong background in early childhood education and have been in the public schools for the past 15 plus years and I can tell you that social-emotional learning is needed, now more than ever. If Pentucket Workshop is trying to teach a little empathy in this world, is that really such a bad thing? I think it’s a shame that this morsel of information is what you chose to use to take up air space, particularly without talking to the wonderful staff there first to get the full story. This school is doing so much good and to taint that with this story of something I suspect is a misunderstanding or perhaps taken out of context is doing a disservice. Just this past weekend at a weekend play gathering, that the staff gave up some of their weekend to come to, I had the opportunity to thank the director of PWS for having such a wonderful program. I stand by that.

  2. So what keeps children from seeing that having a broad group of acquaintances is of greater importance than a deeper one on one friendship.

  3. I’m so tired of so called “experts” telling families don’t do this – don’t do that , your child or some other child’s feeling are going to get hurt. Well, Ms Expert – feelings do get hurt but learning to how do deal with hurt feeling is a good learning experience. I use to listen to the “experts” for my son but when I started my own research and started expressing myself, all of a sudden I was a troublemaker. In real life peoples feelings get hurt – hell im 72 yrs old and I still sometimes get hurt feeling but I deal with it. For crying out loud, when is good old “common sense” going to make a comeback??

  4. Eric Jones says:

    When Liberalism goes wrong…

  5. I like what Paula said.. adults putting their expectations on to little children…. control swearing.. or name calling in a bullying way.. but ordinary language.. I cry foul!! let kids establish friendships.. solid ones.. stop putting or taking words out of their innocent mouths… let them be children…

  6. Ms. Peicott, I’m sure it’s a great school, unfortunately, they did not respond in time for the article. What benefit do children have from NOT having a “best friend”? I am 57, I had LOTS of “best friends” as a child, so did everyone I know – and we’re okay. Sure, it hurt my feelings occasionally if I wasn’t “best friend of the moment” but when you are kids, this changes on a minute by minute basis. It’s okay to be disappointed once in a while – that is how children grow in maturity. Children need to have that one “best friend” that they can confide in. If the statement was taken out of context, then the school needs to address that as well. Children need close friends and acquaintances, don’t take that away from them.

    1. Ms. Anderson, I appreciate your response. We have in common that we share the same age. I also agree with what you say. Yet, there are a couple of things that you need to know. Pentucket Workshop would also agree with what you say. Friendships are important. This is why this story has taken one narrow viewpoint and made it into a reality that it is not. The school was closed for April vacation. It seems that this not being a time sensitive article, WBZ could have been more responsible and waited to get a balanced and honest story. To me the story here seems to be more about responsible reporting, not attention grabbing headlines.

  7. Having a best friend is of immeasurable value – and so many say it’s better to have 2 or 3 close friends than an army of acquaintances. There is nothing wrong with calling a cat a cat, or a cup a cup, or a chair a chair, or a best friend a best friend. Kids will feel left out in life, kids will be left out in life – it’s life. Teach them starting at a young age who to process those feelings rather than “protect” them for feelings. They are true, valid feelings and if you don’t teach them now, how are they going to handle it when they get earlier. There is more and more violence in our high schools – and I believe one contributor to this (in addition to bullying) is the fact that kids are so “protected” that when they actually have to deal with real life emotions/situations they don’t know how, get overloaded and act out. This child is 3 years old – she was not bullying, she was not mean, she was not malicious – let her have her best friend.

  8. I am a parent of a thriving three year old that attends Pentucket Workshop Preschool. After sending my now 10-year old son and almost 8-year-old daughter to preschool there, we counted down the months for our youngest to attend.

    PW has a unique atmosphere, and you can feel the difference when you walk in to the school. The teachers are always engaged with the kids, they all work well together and respect each other and the children, and the school feels more like a family. Both my son and daughter made their first friendships here, friendships that they still have to this day. To say that the school discourages friendships, or “best friends”, is not accurate and is misleading. There is NO policy at this school that bans friendships or bans best friends. This story seems taken out of context, and I’m surprised to see that it’s a “story” at all. I hope other families will share their positive experiences with the school, because there are SO many!

  9. Emily Serino says:

    It’s very unfortunate that WBZ chose to run this story during vacation week, when the school was closed and no one was available to comment. My children also went to and currently attend Pentucket Workshop and it is such an amazing, unique school. Except for this family, I’ve never met a family who went there and didn’t love it. We also counted down the months until our youngest child started there because we missed it so much! I’ve always thought of it as an old-fashioned preschool, where children learn through play and social interaction, rather than focusing on academics and sitting at desks. In my opinion, encouraging social and emotional development is the most important goal of childhood and PWP is the rare preschool that shares this philosophy. My children have developed many close friendships at the school and have never been banned from doing so. One person’s perception of the way a situation was handled does not create a “new policy” banning friendship, and certainly not a news story.

  10. kids didnt make up the term best friend …its just a term people use to express love for that one special person that they relate to more than others…not unlike a romantic relationship…are they going to try and stop people from loving that one special person now ?

  11. WBZ should be ashamed. This “news” item is inaccurate, unfortunate, and misleading.

    As a parent of one child who went to this school and another who will continue there for 1-2 more years, I implore everyone to recognize that this is an extremely slanted report that presents the very one-sided account of a single parent/family, and is a consequence of ABYSMAL reporting. MA schools are on April break right now (thus one reason they may have been unavailable for comment), and please pause to also consider the many reasons the school may choose not to discuss something so very publicly when only one parent/family is registering the complaint in the first place.

    My child absolutely has a best friend at this school, and they have no policy against it. They do, however, have policies about general kindness and respect for adults and peers. They also practice what they preach.

    I would suggest that the school’s public silence speaks volumes to its character concerning an issue I can only surmise was a specific event, issue, or series of such involving a specific child or children. Consider that possibility, and what it says about the parent making the report and the news agency that runs with it.

    Please realize there is FAR more to know about this upstanding school than this report, which lacks any meaningful context whatsoever.

    We should all be more discerning and critical of the “news” we consume.

  12. Sam Williams says:

    This is beyond stupid. You don’t make a pre-schooler feel bad for calling their friend their ‘best friend’.

    That does not exclude other children. That merely identifies the level of friendship with that particular person.

    Do they not realize that in the course of trying to make everyone else feel good, they make those using perfectly normal terms, feel bad. Good job.

  13. Jon Emeigh says:

    It is a fact of human nature that people are going to forge deeper friendships with certain people over others. It is, unfortunately, also a fact of human nature that some people are not going to be as well-liked, and may feel sadness from them.

    This won’t change that. You can’t force people to be included.

    There are better ways to teach empathy.

    This is dumb. It just is.

    I’m sure that the people who came up with the idea didn’t intend to be dumb about it, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    Stop denying common sense and leave the kids to be kids, OK?

    1. Hi Jon, I absolutely agree with what you say in general. However, in this specific case, please refer to the comments that correctly identify this “news” item’s statements about the school as irresponsible and inaccurate. Note that these comments have been made by parents who have children that attend this school, and as has the school, have very diplomatically refrained from public comment on the individual putting forth this unsubstantiated falsehood in place of the school’s actual policies and practices. There are alternative conclusions one might draw about that person, and the agency that runs with such unsubstantiated misrepresentations. Even minimal due diligence would have sent this heavily slanted and decontextualized account to the dustbin in which it belongs.

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