Schools tailor war discussion to levels of age, understanding

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 21, 2003

With war settling in, teachers and school administrators are deciding how to talk about the situation in different classes, with different grade levels and with individual students.

&uot;We really try to handle it child by child,&uot; Jean Jordan, principal of Lakeview Elementary school, said. &uot;We haven’t done anything formal. Individual teachers have addressed it.&uot;

Jordan said that, depending on the age of the students, the teachers address the issue in various ways.

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With older students, the discussions are more in depth.

&uot;The sixth-graders know more about what is going on,&uot; she said. &uot;They have a better concept of politics, a better understanding of democracy. They just understand those concepts much better.&uot;

With younger students, they try to keep it as simple and minimal as they can.

&uot;With the younger ones, you may just handle it more as a safety issue,&uot; she said. &uot;We usually try to say it is an adult issue and adults are taking care of it.&uot;

At Albert Lea High School there is a much different atmosphere.

Students are well aware of the situations, and many have been watching, as a class, as the United States and Iraq moved toward war.

But many teachers at the high school were unwilling to discuss how they covered the conflict.

Todd Brist, a social studies teacher at ALHS, said he didn’t touch much on the issue.

&uot;It’s really up to the parents,&uot; he said. &uot;It can be a very personal issue. Some students have family over there. I think it is just better for family to talk about it.&uot;

District Superintendent Dave Prescott sent out a fax to district administrators, counselors and teachers from the Crisis Management Institute on how to talk with children about the war.

The document said that speaking in obvious terms without judgment is the best way to talk about the issue. It also said speaking in hopeful terms, being honest, and making it easy for children to express their concerns are important.

Prescott said he did not make any districtwide mandates on how teachers should handle it. Rather, he said, he’d leave it up to the individual teachers.