Teaching Our Children About Terrorism

This article is written from the perspective of the parent, but the hints are usable  by anyone.  If your child was in school on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 or anywhere near a television during the following days, they probably had many questions about what happened at the World Trade Center in New York City and at the Pentagon in Washington D.C.  

As a parent, educator and an American, I personally find it difficult to deal with the events, even  now.  Often times, underlying reasons might be keeping our children from asking us the questions they really need to have answered.   

  • Why did those planes hit  the World Trade Center?
  • Why did the plane hit the Pentagon?
  • Why did all those people die?
  • Why did the plane go down in Pennsylvania?
  • Why don't those people like us?
  • What is the Taliban?
  • Who is Osama Bin Laden?
  • Did I do anything wrong?
  • What's a terrorist?
  • What's ground zero?
  • Why are all the flags flying?
  • Why are we at war?
  • Am I going to die?
  • Are they going to take some more of our planes?
  • Are we going to move?
  • How can a small group or one man do this?
Unfortunately, I can only give you suggestions for a few of these questions.  

Terrorists are bad people who decide to do something mean and ugly to hurt or kill a lot of  innocent people.  Sometimes they do it to get attention and other times they do it to hurt people who are different or believe something different from them.   

Ground zero is the place at which an explosion occurs.  The spot that it happens.  

You will have to decide what to say to the young people in your lives about the other questions, but maybe the two definitions could be a beginning.   

The Taliban is currently the ruling party in Afghanistan?

Osma Bin Laden is a Muslim with some extremist viewpoints about many things.  He does not appear to like the United States very much.  

If your child has not asked any questions, take the initiative to begin some dialog.

Lisa Burrell, Ed. D.  Dr. Burrell has a doctorate in Historical Social Cultural Foundations.  Her program emphasis was Multicultural Education.  She is the owner of her own diversity company.  Follow this link to see what they have to offer:





Teaching Our Children Emergency School Safety? 

In the wake of recent events we must all take some time and think about school safety in a different arena.  As I listened to the teachers share some heroic stories of how they aided young people near ground zero, I felt the need to ask some teachers about pointers for school safety.  Here are a few of the most important suggestions.    

  • Know the emergency plan(s) for your school.  There may be different plans for different types of emergencies.  NOTE:  If neighborhood schools do not have regular practice school drills, find out why.  Parents insist your child's school have some type of emergency plans in place for various disasters.  You must also make sure they have practice drills at least once a month.  This goes for day care centers as well, everybody.  Accidents can happen anywhere, including your job or home.  
  • Know the layout of the facility.  A map with the emergency exits should be posted in each classroom.  The nearest exit should be clearly marked with a uniform color in each classroom.  These layouts should be laminated and in a place so that all people can easily see them.  
  • Be quiet!  You need to be able to hear what is being said to you.  
  • Lend a hand to those who might need it if you can.
  • Follow adult directions the first time they are given to you.  
  • Try to find a trustworthy partner among your classmates to walk with you.
  • Don't run unless specifically told to do so by an adult in charge.  
  • Stay with your teacher if at all possible.
  • If you have a cell phone, once out of danger, make a quick call to notify someone you are okay and tell them to notify others.  Then GET OFF THE LINE and STAY OFF.
If the danger passes and you are still too shaken up to perform, see if you parents will allow you to have an early dismissal.  Then go home, discuss your problems with your parents and rest.  This is not mall time nor movie time.  

Teachers should consider assigning a responsible student or two to help in emergencies with parental consent.  When I was a practicing teacher, the line leader was the person and this job rotated from week to week.  Line leader was a privilege and those who did not take the responsibility seriously would have the privilege taken away.    

Parents, speak to your children about the importance of following adult directions in general, but emphasize the importance of doing so even more during an emergency.  


Neta F. Burrell, M.Ed. has a Bachelors in Cultural Studies K-9 and a Masters in Behavior Disorders.   She has been an educator for over twenty years.  She is currently a 4th grade teacher in Louisiana.  

Charlotte Smith, has owned her own day care center Pitter Patter for several years.  She shared some of the things she felt are especially important in working with younger children.  Pitter Patter is located in Texas.