PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Parents in the West Allegheny School District are sharing their frustration over a recent “anti-bullying” workshop for students.

Some say it put their children at risk, and now, ahead of a school board meeting tonight, the school district superintendent is responding to their complaints.

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The controversy erupted over a session designed to help students deal with bullying.

The school defends the program as something that’s nationally-recognized and it’s something they’ve done before. Even so, the district is reaching out to the families who are disturbed by the training.

At issue is a group session where students were put in a circle and asked several questions, including:

  • You have been impacted by drugs or alcohol?
  • You have been called fat or made fun of?
  • You or someone close to you identifies as gay, lesbian, or transgendered?
  • You have been impacted by mental challenges or learning disabilities?
  • You or your family has ever worried about not having enough money?
  • You or someone close to you has been imprisoned?
  • You have been raised by a single parent?

“I would never expect a middle school to ask kids if their parents have been in school, if they’re [the] same sex, if they’re having financial issues. How is that going to affect them?” said parent Marie-Noelle Briggs.

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The district defends the exercise as a nationally-recognized program developed by Stanford to help students become more sensitive and cope with bullying.

“If a student feels comfortable stepping in when a statement is read, what their peers are supposed to take from that activity is a greater sensibility that ‘I’m not alone. I realize that there’s other students that are struggling,’” said West Allegheny School District Superintendent Jerri Lynn Lippert.

But Lippert admits parents should have been more involved with the program.

“What I think went wrong with this is we did not do a thorough vetting process with parents. Had the workshop involved parents in the planning, I don’t think we would be here,” she said.

The district is reaching out now to students and parents who are upset by the program. They are providing counseling.

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Meantime, the issue is expected to come up when the West Allegheny School Board meets this evening.