Activity at Marinette Middle School drawing controversy

MARINETTE (WITI) -- Marinette Middle School is defending the decision it made last week to have fifth through eighth-grade students participate in an activity called "cross the line." The school says the goal was to help students have a better understanding of one another. However, some parents are still upset with the way the school went about the activity.

It's called "cross the line," and the activity is used by some schools to build awareness and in some cases, prevent bullying among students.

A set of questions is asked, and while in a group, students step forward, or "cross the line" when answering "yes" to the question.

Students from Marinette Middle School participated in the activity last week -- and some parents were upset about it, saying the activity was inappropriate.

The school's principal is defending the program.

"We have a lot of students with a lot of different talents, a lot of different likes and a lot of different issues that they struggle with on a daily basis, so this activity's purpose was to help students gain a better understanding of that diversity," Marinette Middle School Principal Shawn Limberg said.

When FOX spoke with parents last week, they said if students didn't participate in the activity, they would receive an in-school suspension.

However, Limberg says students were not forced to participate in the activity and they were never threatened with disciplinary action.

Limberg showed FOX all of the questions that students were asked.

Some of which included: "Cross the line if you enjoy sports, or school or have flown on an airplane?"

But other questions get a little more sensitive for some, involving topics on alcohol and drug abuse, or hurting yourself.

One parent says they feel the activity will lead to more bullying.

"If I cross the line and say I've had a parent in jail and this person doesn't, you know, that's showing something bad of me. How is that going to get us connected? That's going to give the person next to me more reason to throw something in my face," Tiffany Goodlet, the parent of a seventh-grade student said.

Limberg disagrees.

"The number one reason why kids bully is because they don't feel good about themselves and they feel alone," Limberg said.

Richard Swiatnicki's son is a fifth-grade student at the school and he says the questions were too personal.

"The questions they were asked were inappropriate, especially for kids that age unless they're in a therapeutic setting. If you put yourself into the mindset of a 10 or 11-year-old child, that can be perceived in many different ways," Swiatnicki said.

The school admits, parents should have been notified before the activity was conducted and says if a similar activity is planned, parents will be told in advance.

Limberg says out of 600 students, only 20 parents want to meet with him on this issue. He plans to meet with those parents in the coming days.