In Parma, Ohio, a second-grader submitted a class project that included a photo of his stillborn baby brother. When his teacher refused the project, stating that the photo was inappropriate for his classmates, the student’s parents refused to change the project.
Seven-year-old Nicholas Millsaps Jr. of Old Brooklyn Constellation Elementary was working on a class project designed to introduce himself: his family, his likes and hobbies, etc. One of the photos included with the project showed Nicholas’s dead baby brother Noah.
“He was stillborn at 36 weeks. The cord was wrapped around four times and his heart had stopped beating. By the time we caught it, it was too late,” Cassandra Hess told FOX8 of Cleveland. Noah’s stillbirth occurred in March of this year.
The Hess family still maintains a room for Noah with his name and painted baby footprints on the wall.
Nicholas’s photo caused a controversy with the teacher. Eventually, the school principal, Cherie Kaiser, became involved.
As Cleveland19 quotes Hess, “The principal was really rude about it. She’s like, ‘I can’t allow you to show a picture of a dead baby.’ I said, ‘You can’t tell he is not a living baby. It looks like a family who just had a newborn baby.”
Kaiser released a statement to the press reading, “Given the age of the children in the class, we do not believe the subject of the photograph was appropriate. The decision was made in consideration of the best interests of all the students in the class. I fully support the decision of the teacher.”
Hess alleges that her son was also told not to talk about Noah – a claim the school says is untrue.
Howard Hall, a pediatric psychologist with University Hospitals, commented on the incident and reflected that there is no textbook way to introduce the subject of death to children. He suggested that this moment could be used as a teachable one.
Hall told FOX8, “You want to protect kids and help them if they’ve been traumatized[,] but just a pet comfortably dying or a relative who had a comfortable death…and they’re around for that and it’s okay, that can be okay and can be very positive.”