For the past several years, Caitlyn Jackson of Battle Creek, Michigan battled Leukemia. During that time, fellow students at Lakeview Elementary School, their families and community rallied support for Caitlyn, now in the sixth grade, and her family. They held fundraisers and were a constant source of encouragement for the grade school girl.
Some of the fundraisers had t-shirts that were purple (Caitlyn’s favorite color) and orange (the official color for the leukemia victims) with Caitlyn’s name one them. On Monday, Nov. 11, some of the kids at Caitlyn’s school wore their fundraiser shirts while others wore purple and orange shirts with Caitlyn’s name on them to class because Caitlyn lost her battle with leukemia on Saturday, Nov. 9.
However, Caitlyn’s classmates were shocked and saddened when they arrived at school that Monday wearing their shirts to honor her because school administrators told the students to either turn their shirts inside out, change them for another shirt or wear a piece of duct tape over Caitlyn’s name.
While the district superintendent was outside the country at the time looking into a foreign exchange program, the district’s crisis management team decided late Sunday night to ban shirts with Caitlyn’s name on it, but failed to get the notification out to parents. Their warped logic was that they didn’t want things like shirts commemorating Caitlyn to cause additional grief to other students.
Their poor judgment and lack of communication skills did more than add to the grief of Caitlyn’s loss. Students who wore the shirts were upset over the school’s actions. At least one student, 11 year old Jaidyn Bellinger received lunchtime detention for wearing her shirt to honor Caitlyn. The local news quoted her as saying:
“It made me feel really bad that I couldn’t express myself for Caitlyn. I wanted to let people know how bad it feels to lose someone like that.”
Worse yet was what the school’s action did to Caitlyn’s mother Melinda Jackson, who said:
“That hurt me to the point that I didn’t think I could be hurt anymore.”
The school later admitted that they had made the wrong decision and acted poorly. Banning the shirts turned out to be a greater distraction than had the students been allowed to wear them in the first place.
I see the whole problem stemming from the fact that God, the Bible and Christianity have been banned from the schools, so nobody knows how to properly deal with death and grief. Too many people, including parents try to hide death and suffering from kids, but that is the worst thing they can do.
The death of a loved one or friend needs to be talked about openly. It’s a perfect time to teach children about a once perfect Creation with no death or disease and that man’s sin changed all of that. Because Adam chose to sin, death and suffering entered and corrupted God’s perfect Creation. Because of sin, we are all spiritually separated from God for all of eternity. But Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and that believing in him as Lord and Savior; we are saved from that eternal separation and will spend eternity in heaven with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. In fact for a Christian, our physical death is actually something to look forward to, instead of fearing it because it means no more pain, no more suffering and we will spend eternity in heaven.
When children understand what death really means and our need for Jesus, it’s much easier for them to grieve the loss of a family member or friend. It also means that they will no longer need all of the grief counselors that our generation never needed when God was still allowed in public school.