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School Controversy Over Project With Photo of Stillborn Baby

Was the School Right to Forbid a Boy From Including This Family Photo in an Assignment?

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, 7-year-old Nick Millsaps Jr. was told to create a poster that was all about him. When the second grader returned to school, his teacher at Old Brooklyn Community Elementary and Middle School in Cleveland wouldn't accept his project because of the photo he decided to include — a family picture with his stillborn little brother.

After writing down his favorite books, movies, and songs, Nick's mother, Cassandra Hess, let him decide which picture to paste from a family photo album on his poster. When Nick picked out the photo of himself, his mom, his stepdad, and his baby brother, Noah, Cassandra wasn't surprised that Nick wanted to share with classmates the love that he feels for his deceased sibling.

Noah was born in March at 36 weeks and was pronounced dead after being delivered with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck four times. For his project, Nick decided on a photo that was taken of the family shortly after Noah's birth and shows the family while Cassandra holds the swaddled baby.

"He said he wanted everyone to see his baby brother. Everybody in his class, half the people in school know what happened, and that's why he doesn't understand why he can't show the photo of his brother," Cassandra said. "The principal was really rude about it. She's like, 'I can't allow you to show a picture of a dead baby.'"

While Nick's mother believes it shouldn't be an issue since the photo looks like a family who just had a newborn baby because you can't tell that the child is no longer living, the school's principal, Cherie Kaiser, released a statement explaining their position. "Given the age of the children in the class, we do not believe the subject of the photograph was appropriate. This decision was made in consideration of the best interests of all students in the class. I fully support the decision of the teacher."

Cassandra said she has no intention of making Nick redo his project, even if the school marks him down for it, and believes that the school shouldn't tell her son not to talk about his stillborn brother. "I know not everyone is going to understand what we go through, but I will not allow someone to tell myself or my son or any one of my children that they can not talk about their brother like he never existed," Cassandra said.



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