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With School Canceled, Parents Give Children A Life Lesson

Tim Lloyd | St. Louis Public Radio
Darrell Bryant Senior and his son, Darrell junior, stand outside the burnt out remains of the QuikTrip on West Florissant Road in Ferguson.

Updated 6:54 a.m. Tuesday with cancellations in Ferguson-Florissant, Riverview Gardens and Jennings.

Bobby Lee Brown, no relation to Michael Brown, walked along Canfield Drive on Monday morning. The tall man with a full beard has his hand on the back of his son Donovan. Brown’s off of work Monday and planned on taking Donovan to his first day as a fifth grader at Robinwood Elementary School. 

“This morning he didn’t understand why there wasn’t any school,” Brown said. "So I had to sit him down in front of the TV and tell him to look at the news.”

After being postponed last week, school was supposed to start in the Ferguson-Florissant School District this morning. But that didn’t happen. The district first canceled classes for Monday, then announced that no school would be held all week because of the continuing unrest in Ferguson. Classes in Jennings and Riverview Gardens were also called off Monday and Tuesday. (Read about the first day of Normandy here.)

Brown said he and his son had planned to help with cleanup efforts, but by about 8:30 this morning most of that work had been done. So he decided it would be a good experience for his young African-American son to see where Michael Brown was shot by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the Canfield Green Apartment Complex.

Donovan said he had butterflies in his stomach as he approached the stuffed animals and signs that make up a small memorial for Brown in the center of the street.

“I just don’t know why it happened, and it’s kind of wrong,” Donovan said, before a woman with a bullhorn walked by, shouting at a couple of FBI agents canvassing the complex for witnesses to Brown’s fatal police shooting.  

Around the corner, a man sang gospel hymns near the burnt out remains of the QuikTrip that has been the epicenter of protests. Darrell Bryant Sr. and his son, Darrell Jr., are wearing matching sunglasses. A little fun on a somber day.

“I try to teach him not to tear up a bunch of stuff.” Bryant said. “To pick up a broom and help out.”

Darrell Jr. said he was bummed out this morning that he wouldn’t be starting third grade at Cool Valley Elementary School.

“I was sad because I wanted to go to school because school is fun,” Darrell Jr. said.

Bryant said it’s important for his son to see this, to see the consequences of the past few days. He told his African-American son that there’s reason to be angry, but that looting is not the right way to express that anger.

There’s another lesson he wanted to teach Darrell Jr. , that police have families, too.

“Most of them have kids, too,” Bryant said. “They want to go home at night. They still want to go home and see their kids.”

Welcome signs taken down

A couple of miles away, it was quiet at Ferguson Middle School. Lisa Chabot picked up signs that she and other volunteers placed in front of the school to welcome back students this morning.

Credit Parents for Peace
Volunteers for Parents for Peace made signs to welcome back students in the Ferguson-Florissant students on the first day of school.

“The positive thing is this community has rallied together to try to welcome these kids back to school,” Chabot said.  “We were picking up signs the community was making for the last couple of days.  To make sure the kids feel welcome again.  For the community to open its arms like that and give these kids a hug, that’s been uplifting.”   

Her husband, Rob Chabot, sits on the Ferguson Florissant School Board.  They have two children in the district, one in middle school and one in high school.

The Chabots live about a mile from the protests and she said the past few days have been exhausting.

“I’m extremely frustrated. I want our kids to get back to normal,” Chabot said. “My kids want to get back to normal. This is tearing our community up. We have beautiful community. We have a wonderful school district and these kids are not able to get back to that and it’s very frustrating for all of the parents in this area.”

As the National Guard rolls into Ferguson, administrators for the Ferguson Florissant School District will once again be up late, waiting to see when they will feel it’s safe to start the school year.

Tim Lloyd was a founding host of We Live Here from 2015 to 2018 and was the Senior Producer of On Demand and Content Partnerships until Spring of 2020.