Should Parents Know When Teachers Address Sensitive Topics?

Be it the death of a classmates’ parent or the details of a school shooting, should parents be given a heads up when these sensitive issues are going to be talked about at school?


Moms Talk is a weekly feature on all Lehigh Valley Patches in which local parents, caregivers and other members of the community are invited to share opinions and advice on parenting topics.

This week’s Moms Talk question relates to whether parents and caregivers should be given a heads up when sensitive issues are going to be brought up at school.

When my older child was in kindergarten, the parent of one of his classmates died unexpectedly. We found out about this sad occurrence as we were sitting around the dinner table. He informed us that we needed to “bake a cake or something” for the child’s family. When we asked why, he told us it was because the little boy’s mother had died and his teacher had explained that that’s the kind of thing you do when somebody dies. Yikes! Really?!? That’s what you talked about at school today?

Now, with the 2012-2013 school year only barely started, I am hearing of elementary school kids turning the dinner conversation to the Columbine massacre. With September 11 about a week away, some parents – including me -- are wondering if schools will address this national tragedy with the little ones. Sensitive topics come up at school often – perhaps more than many parents realize -- which is actually kind of the point.

Now we want to hear your thoughts:

Should parents be informed when sensitive topics are being talked about at school? 

Our Moms Council members include: 

  • Lisa Amey of Upper Milford Township is a stay-at-home mom to an 8-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. A past president of the MOMS Club of Emmaus and longtime member of MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers), Lisa is an Independent Consultant for Arbonne International. 
  • Lisa Drew of Emmaus is a certified nutritionist and personal trainer, wellness and fitness coach with more than 17 years of experience. She is the mother of a 13-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy.
  • Jennifer Elston of Emmaus has almost two decades of professional experience in child development and counseling. She is currently a stay-at-home mom to two beautiful girls. Together with her husband, Chris, she owns Christopher Elston Photography.
  • Jeanne Lombardo of Nazareth is the mother of a 10-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. She’s new to the Lehigh Valley, having moved to Nazareth from Bergen County, NJ in January.
  • Lisa Merk of Lower Macungie is a stay-at-home mother of four boys – a 12-year-old and 6-year-old triplets. Lisa is a past president of the MOMS Club of Lower Macungie East. In her “spare” time, Lisa teaches piano to school-age children.
  • Zoila Bonilla Paul of Bethlehem is a stay-at-home mom to two girls – a 5-year-old and a 14-month-old. Zoila is a member of her local “moms’ club” and says she is “well-versed in the fun that children can bring.”
  • Beth Sharpless of Emmaus works part time in a local emergency department as a nurse and part time from home as a customer support specialist. She has two children -- a boy who is almost 2 and a 5-year-old girl. She says they love spending time outdoors and dancing.

If you would like to become a part of the Moms Council and/or have ideas for future Moms Talk questions, please email jennifer.marangos@patch.com.

Heather Depew September 05, 2012 at 01:32 PM
As a former teacher, I would NEVER address such sensitive topics with elementary or middle school students. If the school wanted them addressed, I would have said that we needed to issue a letter to be mailed home to every parent and saying the date when we will be discussing this. I taught high school, and I still sent out a letter reminding parents that the anniversary of September 11th is coming up, and we will be playing a piece of music this year that was written in memory for the survivors and ones who lost their lives. There is also a piece of music that was written for the Columbine tragedy, to commemorate the brave ones who survived and passed away. I performed that piece twice, once in two different high schools. In order for my students to perform it with the utmost respect, the students needed to know the meaning behind it. The second time I performed this piece with my students, the Virginia Tech shooting happened that April. I remember the next day, all of my students came to band and said, "wow, we now know that we can play this piece with all of the feeling behind it and give it the respect it deserves." It was a terrible thing that had to happen to give my students that "aha" moment, but my students are all better individuals for learning empathy that year.
Melissa Moyer-Schneck September 05, 2012 at 01:33 PM
I think parents need to know when sensitive subjects are being discussed. Our families beliefs, whether that be religious, heritage or anything else should not be put aside to only focus on what that teacher suggests or that teachers opinion. If there is going to be a moment of silence for something, I want to know what it's for, if it means I want to talk to my child about the event that is happening or that I just want to be prepared for my child when they come home and might have questions, it's my responsability to be emotionally supportive of my child, it's not the teachers, BUT, I do appreciate the teachers input as long as I know the input was given. My kids are pretty talkative, they will tell us what was discussed in school, that being said they also will give their opinion of what was discussed in school, so I just think as a parent we need to know what's going on when it comes to sensitive issues.
Melissa Moyer-Schneck September 05, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Loved it!
Heather Depew September 05, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Right....I agree with you whole-heartedly. Communication is the key!!
Mom of DnNnD September 05, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Since 9/11 happened years ago, I would hope that parents have already discussed this by now. But back then it was discussed on the day it was happening. Since the children had no knowledge of what was going on (since there is no tv or news in the classrooms) the teacher should have stayed silent. There goes best judgement and trust me, not every one has good judgement or common sense. Also, let's say that Jane Doe's mother died on Sunday and didn't come to school on Monday. There is no reason for the teacher to tell the children anything about Jane's mother until a note is sent home explaining the situation.


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