Students' reactions to Tulsa shooting are heartbreaking, illuminating

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tulsa police officer facebook post dnt_00010218

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Story highlights

  • Tulsa teacher says she shared students' thoughts because their voices matter.
  • Terence Crutcher was shot by a police officer last week .

(CNN)A Tulsa teacher's detailed Facebook post gives some serious insight into how young people in the community have been affected by the death of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man who was shot by police while standing on a road next to his broken-down car. The officer who shot him has been charged with felony manslaughter.

Rebecca Lee is a teacher at Kipp Tulsa College Preparatory School, and she documented a day of small group discussion designed to help students process the tragedy that's made their city a nexus of protest and national conversation.
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    Lee talked to a group of fifth graders, a group of sixth graders, and a group of seventh and eighth graders.
    The result is a valuable look inside a group of kids who are hurting, kids who sit in the same classrooms and go to the same school as Crutcher's own daughter.
    The full Facebook post is below. It's lengthy, so here are some of the highlights.

    What the fifth graders said:

    "They answer with questions. Why did they have to kill him? Why were they afraid of him? Why does [student] have to live life without a father? What will she do at father daughter dances? Who will walk her down the aisle? Why did no one help him after he was shot?"
    "As the questions roll, so do the tears. Students cry softly as they speak. Others weep openly... One girl closes our group by sharing: 'I wish white people could give us a chance. We can all come together and get along. We can all be united.'"

    What the sixth graders said:

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    "The group of sixth grade girls that surround me are either red-eyed or withdrawn. They sit next to Mr. Crutcher's daughter in class. They are her friends. Nearly every student has a tissue as we read the article together. When I open the floor for discussion: silence. It hurts to talk about. It hurts to think about. It hurts."
    "The sixth graders are quiet. The tragedy lives and breathes among them. It could have been their father. Boys are scattered across the cafeteria with their heads buried in their shirts. "

    What the seventh/eighth graders said:

    "These students are older-- thirteen and fourteen. They are hardened. They are angry. Some students refuse to hold or look at the article."
    "'What made him 'a big bad dude?' a boy asks. 'Was it his height? His size--' I look at the boys in my circle, all former students of mine. They have grown inches since their first day in my class. Their voices have deepened. Their shoulders broadened. They all nod their heads in agreement at the student's last guess-- 'The color of his skin?'"

    "I ask that you love and love hard"

    Lee, who is white, said she feels it's her duty to share the thoughts of her students.
    "I ask that you put yourself in the shoes of black and brown children growing up in a world where they see videos of their classmate's father shot and bleeding in the street," she says.