School apologizes for "mindfulness" yoga after complaints

Are yoga breaks appropriate in schools?

KENNESAW, Ga. -- A Kennesaw elementary school issued an apology after some parents complained about yoga in the classroom. They've banned the word "Namaste", the move of putting a hand over hearts, and any talk of healing crystals (which was never actually taught). 

A note from the principal at Bullard Elementary School said, "I am truly sorry that the mindfulness/ de-stressing practices here at Bullard caused many misconceptions that in turn created a distraction in our community."

Those distractions include some parents criticizing the yoga on public Facebook pages, saying the practice has religious overtones. 

"No prayer in schools. Some don't even say the pledge, yet they're pushing ideology on our students," Cobb County mother Susan Jaramillo told 11Alive's Valerie Hoff.  "Some of those things are religious practices that we don't want our children doing in our schools."

Both the Cobb County School District and Bullard Elementary declined 11Alive's request for an interview, but the school district did forward a copy of the letter Principal Patrice Moore sent home to parents. 

"While we have been practicing de-stressing techniques in many classrooms for years, there have been some recent practices associated with mindfulness that are offensive to some," she said in the note [scroll down to read the complete text]. 

Cheryl Crawford has taught adult and children’s yoga in various Atlanta area schools and yoga studios for years, though not at Bullard Elementary.  

"Namaste means the light in me sees the light in you. When we teach it in school it's a greeting in India. It's greeting like hello. We tell them that the goodness in me sees the goodness in you," Crawford explained. 

Crawford says eliminating the Hindu greeting "Namaste" is not really a big deal and she’s glad students are getting the benefits from yoga: breathing training, mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

"It helps them focus. If they can focus inwardly they can focus on what's being taught," she said. 

The students will still work on breathing and yoga, but not Pranamasana where you press your  hands together and bow. The school is making the changes in hopes that yoga can continue to relieve stress instead of causing more. 

This is the full letter principal Moore sent home to parents:

Good evening Bullard Families,

I’d like to thank those of you who attended “Coffee and Conversations” yesterday.  I am truly sorry that the mindfulness/ de-stressing practices here at Bullard caused many misconceptions that in turn created a distraction in our school and community.  While we have been practicing de-stressing techniques in many classrooms for years, there have been some recent practices associated with mindfulness that are offensive to some. 

As a result, we will pull the following out of our school:  When yoga moves are used in classrooms, students will not say the word “Namaste” nor put their hands to heart center.  When coloring during “brain breaks”, Mandala coloring pages will not be used.  Although teachers have never used nor taught about crystals having healing powers during these breaks, we understand it has become a belief.  Therefore we will ensure that nothing resembling this will be done in the future. 

As we move forward and begin the healing process with the staff, we’d like to form a committee of parents to work with us as we explore research-based techniques and ideas for the classroom.  The purpose of this committee is to get community input on a variety of topics, including mindfulness, curriculum practices and ways to increase our CCRPI score.   If you are interested in sitting on this committee, please send an email to me by Wednesday as I’d like to hold the first meeting prior to spring break.

Have a great weekend!

Patrice Moore

 


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