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VMI Leader Defends Coloring as Stress Reliever for Cadets

LEXINGTON, Va. (AP) — The leader of Virginia Military Institute is defending a program that offers coloring as a way for cadets to ease stress amid widespread attention on social media.

Superintendent J.H. Binford Peay issued a response Tuesday to what he said were recent social media postings regarding VMI behavioral health programs.

According to Peay, the institute's "stress busters" program, which includes several activities such as yoga and therapy dogs that are designed to relieve stress before exams, is being inaccurately portrayed.

A widely read Washington Free Beacon story Tuesday reported that coloring books were also being offered.

However, according to Peay, no coloring books are available or distributed, but a one-page handout with geometric designs that can be colored in is offered.

"There is a one-sheet handout with an intricate design that may be used to color, within discreet, small lines as part of the information packet along with other modalities that are recognized as ways to reduce stress," the retired general said.

In his statement, Peay said VMI has one of the nation's hardest four-year academic, physical and discipline experiences.

"The reality is that suicide rates and mental health issues continue to be on the rise, particularly for young adults," Peay said.

Although the number has been low at the institute, Peay noted "VMI has not been exempt from these tragedies."

"No one should assume that VMI coddles its cadets or has become soft," he said.

VMI has since removed a posting about the program on its website. VMI spokesman Stewart MacInnis said it was attracting "more attention than was necessary."

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