PARMA, Ohio– It’s a family photo causing controversy in one Cleveland school district. And it all stems from a second-grade project.
The family photo shows Nicholas Millsaps, 7; his mom, Cassandra; stepfather, Eric; and his brother, Noah, a baby, who the family said was born an angel, was pronounced dead at birth in March of this year.
Cassandra Hess said, “He was stillborn at 36 weeks. The cord was wrapped around him four times and his heart had stopped. By the time we caught it, it was too late.”
Photos of baby Noah are displayed throughout the family’s home in Parma. His nursery still decorated for his arrival home; a trip that would never be.
“We deal with it every day, one day at a time. It’s been extremely difficult,” said Hess.
Keeping the spirit of her baby alive, Cassandra wasn’t shocked at all that Nicholas wanted to show his classmates the love he feels for his baby brother in this class project submitted Monday.
But the project was denied by his second-grade teacher at Old Brooklyn Constellation Elementary because of the photo of his baby brother.
Hess said, “The teacher then told him that she was not going to allow him to have that picture there. That he had to redo it.”
In a statement to FOX 8, the school’s principal, Cherie Kaiser said,
“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.”
Pediatric psychologist Howard Hall with University Hospitals said while there’s not a right or wrong way to introduce death to children, this can be a teachable moment.
“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,” said Dr. Hall.
As for Nicholas and his mom, they said the school project will remain as is.
“…and if they want to grade him lower, then they can grade him lower, because I refuse to make him feel as if he cannot be proud of his brother.”
Cassandra will experience another miracle very soon. Cassandra is expected to give birth to a baby girl in March.