Many of you saw it, the CNN news cast about Nicholas’ School Project where he shared his family, all of the members of his family, which included his brother Noah who was born still. A teacher at the school, Old Brooklyn Elementary and Middle School, refused to accept Nicholas’ project, stating it contained inappropriate content and that he needed to resubmit his family pictures. Many of us are appalled and outraged. And we have a right to be. The teacher is basically saying that Noah, is inappropriate, that a picture of him is appalling and that the other kids being exposed to his picture, will see that death exists.

Apparently, the school wants to hide the fact that death exists. 


In a world full of violence, murder, and school shootings, what is this school teaching their children? In my son’s elementary school, they learned about lock down. They learned how to hide during an active shooter. Is this school teaching their kids what to do in the event they experience this type of violence? If so, what are they telling the kids the reason for the drill is? I remember having bomb drills in elementary school, hiding under desks and sheltering in the classroom. Tornado and fire drills are a part of every school protocol, but what does this mean? Are we discounting death?

I am not off topic here, I am making a point. Death exists. Evil exists. To shelter children from it, only makes it more scary. To shelter children, makes them unaware. To shelter children, hurts the children who are the unfortunate ones who have had to experience it.

Nicholas is carrying grief. He loves his brother and sharing him helps him. It helps him to cope and process his loss. It helps him feel good when his parents are crying and grieving. Sharing a picture of his stillborn brother, HELPS HIM.

Noah is not something to be disgusted by. He is not something to be afraid of. Noah is reality. The reality that 1 in 160 babies are born still every year in the US. The children who would see Noah’s picture, will most likely see him for who he is. A baby. Only the teacher brought in the death. Only the teacher and the principal brought the fear of death into the situation.

This was an opportunity for questions, for awareness, for supporting a hurting student. As a parent, I would not be offended at all by this but the sad reality is, we know that parents are offended and they may be upset. But Nicholas was never given a chance. Instead, his voice was silenced. Instead, he was told to “hide” his brother. To “change the picture.” That is family didn’t fit societal norm. He was asked to show people a “fake family.” If both of his parents were women or men, would he have been asked to change the picture?

This silencing has got to stop. Joey was silenced. Many of you have heard him share about his loss of Ruby. Many of you saw him cry over his sister who was born not alive in the first trimester. Miscarriage and stillbirth is real and it is frequent. I can’t be silent over this. I won’t be silent.

Below is a letter I wrote to the principal. The one who “supported her teachers decision.” I urge you to write to her as well. Please try to be civil. It’s okay to be angry. I know I am. I hope we can help her see the error in what was done and help validate Nicholas’ feelings.

CNN Stillbirth

Good Morning Ms. Kaiser,

I saw the video on CNN this morning about the school project where Nicholas shared his brother Noah who was stillborn. As a bereaved mother, educator, and perinatal loss specialist, I found it offensive that your teacher refused to accept Nicholas’ project and that you stood by their actions. According to your media statement, you felt the photo was inappropriate. 
What about the photo was inappropriate? Nicholas held his deceased brother, he loves his brother, he has seen his parents grieve over his brother, and he himself carries grief. To tell him that the picture is inappropriate is to discount his feelings and confuse him. This is one of your students and is a student that is hurting and needs your support. 
Teachers have a profound impact on the children they educate. It is important that Nicholas receive compassion and acceptance for his very real feelings and validate his very real grief. A teacher did something very similar to my son in 2010. He was 6 years old when his sister died and we experienced a miscarriage. The teacher was separating children by number of siblings and when my son went into the group with 1 sibling, the teacher asked him to leave that group and return to the only child group. The reason, “because his sister wasn’t living, she didn’t exist.” 
Because of this experience, my son speaks out publicly about how hurt he was by his teacher and the secondary victimization he felt because of her actions. He feels society should be accepting of young children’s response to grief and the way they process the death of a sibling. Children are the silent grievers when it comes to miscarriage and stillbirth.
Ma’am, you are continuing to spread the stigma that miscarriage and stillbirth isn’t common, isn’t worthy of grief, that families shouldn’t share their experiences, and that children should suppress their feelings about their loss. 1 in 4 women will miscarry, it’s highly likely that you have had this experience. 1 in 160 babies are born still. This is more common than Down Syndrome diagnoses which so many women are worried about in their pregnancies. 
I highly encourage you to learn more about miscarriage and stillbirth. There are thousands of non-profits and organizations that support families through these experiences. It is so extremely common and it is also highly likely that other children within your school have had the same experiences yet Nicholas could have been the first child to express his grief in this way.
I have seen your name smeared all over social media and the backlashing from the loss community. I hope you will come out and share that Nicholas will receive full credit for his project and allow him to display his work. Please stop shaming families who have experienced the loss of their child. Please welcome them and the pictures of their families (including pictures of their deceased baby). 
You can help break the silence. You can be a solution and an advocate. You can help support Nicholas as he grieves and remembers his brother. You can help educate your children that death is real. Noah did not die from violence. He was not murdered. He was born silently. Please reconsider your statement. 
It is our duty as parents and educators to help our children through their grief. We stand with you Cassandra Hess.