A second grader’s family photo project in Ohio is causing controversy.
Nicholas Millsaps, 7, attends Old Brooklyn Constellation Elementary in Cleveland. He was asked to bring in a family photo as part of a class project, Fox 8 reported.
Nicholas brought in a photo of himself, his mother, Cassandra Hess, his stepfather, Eric, and his little brother, Noah, who was pronounced dead at birth in March of this year.
“He was stillborn at 36 weeks,” Hess told Fox 8 News. “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 Noah are still displayed throughout the family’s home. His room is still decorated as well.
“We deal with it every day, one day at a time,” Hess said. “It's been extremely difficult.”
Hess added that she believes Nicholas wanted to show his classmates the love he feels for his baby brother. That’s why they were shocked when the second grade teacher denied his project because of the photograph of Noah.
“I gave him the photo album," Hess told Cleveland 19. "I asked him to pick out a photo, and that's the one he chose. 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."
(Picture of Nicholas Millsaps' project, which includes a photo of his deceased baby brother Noah. Photo Credit: Fox 8)
"The principal was really rude about it," Hess added. "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.’”
The school’s principal, Cherie Kaiser, issued the following statement regarding the matter:
“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 told Fox 8 that he believes no one is in the right or wrong in this situation.
“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,” Dr. Hall said.
Still, Hess said her son’s 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," she added.
Cassandra eventually became pregnant again and gave birth to a baby girl in March.