Calmer Choice Program Gets Overwhelming Support at D-Y School Board Meeting

Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School Committee Member Michelle Conover

Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School Committee Member Michelle Conover

YARMOUTH –  There was an overwhelming show of support from the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School community Wednesday night for the Calmer Choice mindfulness program.

After hearing from parents and students who support the initiative, the regional school committee voted to keep it in place.

The Calmer Choice initiative is under fire from school committee member Michelle Conover, who believes it is “psychologically dangerous” for adults and potentially unsafe for children.

She has also said it has religious overtones that may violate the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which creates a separation between church and state.

Conover read a statement during last night’s meeting, saying she would “stand for what is right,” despite the overwhelming outcry against her attempt to remove Calmer Choice.

“School should be a safe place psychologically and spiritually for all children, and I don’t think it’s appropriate for our children to be asked to repeat Buddhist phrases and Buddhist texts,” Conover said.

According to the Calmer Choice website, they are “committed to teaching young people how to effectively and safely manage stress and resolve conflict so that they live happy, healthy and successful lives.”

Calmer Choice Executive Director Fiona Jensen has said they don’t teach religion and are not affiliated with any religious organization.

Conover has enlisted the California-based National Center for Law and Policy for help, which has sent a letter to the school district demanding Calmer Choice be immediately halted.

The National Center for Law and Policy describes itself as a “legal defense organization dedicated to the protection and promotion of religious freedom, the affirmation of life, parental rights, and other civil liberties,” according to its website.

Conover said Calmer Choice was not properly vetted before it was implemented in the D-Y school district.

“I don’t understand how a program  could be put through any kind of scrutiny if the curriculum was never made available or reviewed,” said Conover.

“The health and safety of children are my main concerns, and these aren’t just my concerns. These are concerns that are articulated in scientific studies, in social science studies,” she said last week.

Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School Superintendent Carol Woodbury said they have to address the mental health needs of students.

“One in 10 children in adolescence suffer from mental illness severe enough to cause significant impairment in at least one major area of funtioning — school, home or social relationships,” said Woodbury.

Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School Committee Chairman Brian Carey stood behind the Calmer Choice program, and said they reviewed the methods.

“We don’t do things haphazardly. We don’t do things without thought. And when issues come up , we sit here and make tough decisions,” Carey said.

Since it was founded, Calmer Choice has been used in 18 different schools across 8 school districts, interacting with 6,000 Cape Cod students.

Jensen insists there are no religious overtones and no attempts to indoctrinate children.

“We teach them things like cultivating happiness and kindness, appreciation and gratitude. And we teach them about their brain and their stress response and how their nervous system works,” Jensen said.

But Conover maintains that type of thinking is dangerous.

“What they’re doing with the children has not been found to be scientifically effective, and it has been found to be potentially unsafe for children,” said Conover.

“A lot of these social science research studies show that MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) is spiritually and religiously impactful to the practitioners of it. We just believe that school districts should not be picking religious winners and losers,” he said.

By MATT PITTA and JUSTIN SAUNDERS, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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Comments

  1. This lady is insane. I am waiting for her to say “Just kidding guys!”

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