The Positivity Project: Is it really needed in Harnett County?

Opponents say it’s over the top for a rural county

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Editor’s Note: This is the final in a series of articles arising from a controversial program introduced earlier this year inn the Harnett County School System — The Positivity Project.

Detractors of a character building program introduced in Harnett County Schools question not only the legalities of bringing The Positivity Project to students, they also question whether it’s really needed.

Co-founder Jeff Bryan says the project is a valuable resource for teachers as they attempt to make students aware of the need to show cooperation and character as they develop.

He cites several schools in similar settings as Harnett County as proof it’s working and it’s viable.

“Other schools would disagree with the statement that it’s not needed in a rural setting,” Mr. Bryan told The Daily Record.

He cites schools such as West Pine Middle School as the best example.

“West Pine Middle, which serves students from Pinehurst to West End, adopted the program just last year after a group of teachers went to a summer training session,” Mr. Bryan said. “Principal (Doug) Massengill pointed out that P2 was creating more self-aware students, who could solve problems on their own rather than having to have adults solve problems for them [which] is something we believe is incredibly important to the future of our country — and why we believe deliberately and consistently teaching the 24 character strengths is so important,” he said.

Principal Massengill said he believes the excitement level of teachers more than justifies the use of the program. He also reached out to other school administrators in Wake County and gathered their take on the project.

“As a principal, any time that you have teachers that are organically getting really excited about something, you know you’re onto something,” he said. “I was getting a lot of feedback about how it was creating more self-aware students who were increasingly empathetic and more humble about how they approach things, that they were persevering more through problems and starting to solve problems on their own rather than having to have adults solve problems for them.”

While Harnett County Schools are using the project in an effort to foster better cooperation and understanding between students, as well as trying to add a positive atmosphere to the schools environment, some parents say they’ve gong too far.

Orbie Bevil, a concerned parent from who has been at the forefront of efforts to have the program stopped, says the school has no business delving into issues beyond the schoolhouse.

Her efforts along with those of other concerned parents, led to the program being discontinued at Lillington-Shawton.

“The administration can’t even give a justifiable reason for adopting the program,” Mrs. Bevil told The Daily Record. “At Lillington-Shawtown there is no major disciplinary problem. It’s not a school overrun by bullies and trouble. It is a school that like the rest of the county, is failing year after year to educate our children to an acceptable standard. Our children are not failing the educational system, the educational system is failing our children.”

Mrs. Bevil also insists the school is over reaching and trying to passively shift blame to the parents for any problems their children might be having.

“Are they implying that the issue is our children have a character problem?” she said. “The message we parents get regularly for the schools failing is that the kids don’t have the discipline, respect and upbringing in the home and that’s why the schools cant do the job.”

She says the schools are trying to reach even further and are trying to become mental health providers.

“The school now thinks it is qualified as a mental health center instead of an institution of learning because it chooses to blame the failings of administration on the children,” Mrs. Bevil said. “So they are going to take children who are being left back and who are largely living below the poverty level and teach them to be happy with their position in society and sacrifice for the greater good.”

Instead Mrs. Bevil says the school should use other means to focus on the traits addressed in The Positivity Project. She wants to see schools urge children to improve their lives by using education not psychology.

“If you want to teach children strength of character you teach them pride, dignity, self worth and empower them to stand up and find their greatness, give them the educational foundation to improve their lives,” Mrs. Bevil said. “A child who has a sense of worth and dignity isn’t a disciplinary problem. You need look no further than who has these children seven hours a day five days a week to realize the problem can’t be sloughed off as all the families fault.”

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