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Taking Kids to a Gruesome Trial Is Ridiculous!

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Dr. Michelle Golland: Connecticut mother Jennifer Ghoshray, who homeschools her two daughters (ages 6 and 7), brought her kids to the gruesome trial of multiple-murder suspect Steven Hayes, telling reporters that it was for a "civics lesson." Really?

Taking Kids to a Gruesome Trial Is Ridiculous!

Oh -- and she had prepared them by discussing the case for "six or seven months." Really?!

Oh -- and what Ghoshray was having her young daughters focus on was the emotional state of both the survivor, Dr. William Petit, and the man who's on trial for allegedly killing Petit's wife and two daughters. Really?!?

This doesn't sound like a children's "civics lesson," it sounds like a forensic psychology course! As a political-science class, civics should involve the study of civic affairs and the rights and duties of citizens. An appropriate civics lesson for a 6- or 7-year-old? How a bill becomes a law. Or "What are the requirements to hold a political office in this country?" Or "What is a jury?" This mom is way off base if she thinks exposing her young children to this gruesome crime over a long period of time is educationally relevant or emotionally healthy.

It also seems Ghoshray wasn't trying to instruct her children on court proceedings (a potentially acceptable civics lesson). Rather, she focused her "lesson" on the deep, tragic pain of the surviving victim and the sick, twisted state of mind of an alleged rapist and killer! Even if it were part of a purported "lesson plan," this case is too emotionally charged and frightening for young girls to be exposed to -- let alone to have to ponder and consider.

The Petit home invasion, robbery, rape and murders took place on the morning of July 23, 2007. The crimes allegedly committed by Hayes against the Petit family were particularly heinous. After beating and binding Dr. William Petit, say prosecutors, Hayes and his accomplice raped Mrs. Petit and Michaela, the Petit's 11-year-old daughter, and then tied all three females (the Petit's 17-year-old daughter Hayley was also present) to their beds ... and then set the house on fire. 

Many of the jurors cried during the testimony, due to the horrific nature of the crimes -- also not something for young girls to be exposed to! This being said, I don't believe in shielding our children from the reality of crime. But we should only tell them about it in order to educate them about the dangers of sexual abuse and other crimes against children, and to teach them about safety and how to protect themselves. Furthermore, when teaching this type of lesson, adults should shield children from the gruesome details in order to avoid traumatizing them -- a very different paradigm from the one followed by Jennifer Ghoshray.

My thought? This mother wanted to attend the trial because of her own interest in the Hayes case. It was selfish and thoughtless of her to put her two young daughters through that -- even under the guise of "civics".

13 comments so far | Post a comment now
XXXX September 24, 2010, 11:42 AM

Homeschooling moms take their kids places and pass it off as a lesson. My sister did that and called it a field trip.

Anonymous September 24, 2010, 12:14 PM

Agree w/above poster. My sister home “schools” (I use the term school loosely) and turns her sleeping all day and letting the kids run wild into “free expression time” and trips to pick up cigarettes are “field trips”

Honest Abe September 24, 2010, 1:45 PM

The above two posters clearly do not have much experience with legitimate home-schooling. Also, Michelle, where are you getting your information for this??? It’s not like she forced her daughters to take in every gruesome (pardon me for using your word of the day) detail. They went to the trial on more than one occasion and never stayed long. She only “exposed” her daughters to certain aspects and did NOT let them see or hear anything inappropriate. I see nothing at all wrong with what this mother and educator did. Why is home-schooling always cast in such a poor light in the media? Is it just that no one wants to admit that statistically home-schooling is better because that would mean shipping them off to school for 7 hours a day just might not be such a good idea after all?

Renae  September 24, 2010, 8:00 PM

Uh, this whole case was inappropriate for young children to study, no matter what aspects she exposed them to. There is no hiding that this was a murder trial, the kids had to have been taught that to understand what was going on. Also, I didn’t even know you could take a kid into a courtroom if they weren’t somehow involved in the case. If us adults can’t understand why or what reasons a person has to hurt or kill another person, how can we possibly expect kids to grasp that?

Lily September 25, 2010, 7:05 AM

I homeschool my kids (4&7) and it would’ve never crossed my mind to take them to a murder trial-for any reason. When I first heard this story I had the same question as the poster who commented they didn’t know kids unconnected to the crime could even GO to the trial. Everyone has their reasons for picking their school choice and while I don’t DISAGREE with her choice to do homeschooling and/or hands on schooling a murder trial isn’t the place for it. I’ve taken my kids many places and done many things with them but this would not be on the list.

Rebecca C September 26, 2010, 1:33 PM

I agree, Honest Abe. From my understanding of what happened, they were not exposed to the really graphic stuff.

I wish my parents had taken me to a trial when I was young. I know for a fact that I would have found it utterly fascinating, if sobering.

Mary Green September 26, 2010, 3:40 PM

Unbelievably brave. A gamble these kids will not have nightmares. Most adults would. The question is, how do Mothers stay safe from stalkers coming home from a grocery store, as this family was. Words escape us.

jerry September 26, 2010, 7:29 PM

What is wrong with this? To the poster who thinks kids aren’t allowed in court rooms: Why wouldn’t they be? They are citizens, and have just as much right as any other citizen to attend a trial by public courts.

Maybe this trial will have inspired one of the girls to become a prosecutor or defense attorney. She will love the career and make lots of money while enjoying her work.

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