NC Schools Debate How To Tell Kids About Attacks
Posted September 14, 2001
CUMBERLAND COUNTY — When news of the terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon broke, teachers were on the front lines trying to decide what to tell students while struggling with the horrible news themselves.
The few stragglers entering Pine Forest Middle School after the bell was evidence of a typical school day. Across Cumberland County, the school day was routine in spite of the tragedy before them.
It's sort of scary, but it's real life, you have to deal with it," student Christopher Ford said.
They took it seriously. They knew it wasn't a joke, it wasn't play," said Eddie Ford III.
"Some of the kids even the grown-ups didn't think it was real," parent Ann Jennings said.
But it is real, and teachers had difficult choices.
For middle and high school students, teachers say it is very important not to hide information.
"They're exposed to it the minute they step out of school, and they hear other kids talk about it, so what better place to talk about it than school?" Pine Forest Middle School counselor Ellie Kelly said.
Johnston County's Four Oaks Elementary School decided differently.
Principal Cathy Truitt chose not to share the news with students. With four sons in the military, that was a difficult task.
Jennifer Williams stepfather works at the Pentagon. She was scared, too.
"If I had tried to tell them what was going on with me, I would have completely lost it," Williams said.
But teachers refused to let their fear become a child's fear. Today in Johnston County, the students were curious, but not upset. Teachers feel they have done their job, whether they talked or not.
"I'll just stand up tall and be an American and do what has to be done so that my kids feel safe," said teacher Katie Keene.
After-school programs and sports will be back on schedule in Johnston, Wake, Durham and Chapel Hill schools.
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