A Pennsylvania high school is under fire over a controversial homework assignment that asked students to answer a math question that used an 8-year-old’s sexual assault for context. The child’s name is “Angelou,” referring to Maya Angelou, the late poet and civil rights activist who suffered sexual abuse as a child by her mother’s boyfriend.
The homework was provided alongside a word puzzle about the author, who penned the memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
Understandably, parents of students at the Perkasie, PA school have voiced outrage at the Pennridge High School administration after seeing the homework.
A follow-up question in the same assignment asked students to answer a question about a single mom who supports her child by working as a prostitute and a pimp. The question asks what her third means of providing for her son would be, including: bookie, drug dealer, and stripper.
According to the school, the homework was part of a sheet downloaded from a website that allows teachers to share educational resources. However, further investigation found that the teacher who compiled the homework did not provide proper context for the question, which was part of a broader range of questions revolving around Angelou—and grouped it together with unrelated questions, such as the one about the prostitute.
@PennridgeReform, a self-described “whistleblower,” highlighted the controversy and brought the issue to the press.
The school district has since apologized for the incident in the wake of complaints and local press coverage.
“We apologize to anyone who was offended by the content of the assignment and have taken steps to avoid such occurrences in the future,” said Pennridge Superintendent Jacqueline Rattigan in a statement to the press. She added that the homework was not a part of the school’s approved curriculum.
Let’s hope the school learned its lesson.