Sex­ual as­sault ques­tion part of math home­work

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - STATE -

PERKASIE — A high school is apol­o­giz­ing af­ter stu­dents were given a math home­work as­sign­ment that asked which fam­ily mem­ber had sex­u­ally as­saulted a girl.

The as­sign­ment fo­cused on Maya An­gelou and her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” It pro­vided an al­ge­bra for­mula that asked: “An­gelou was sex­u­ally abused by her mother’s ___ at age 8, which shaped her ca­reer choices and mo­ti­va­tion for writ­ing.”

Pen­nridge High School stu­dents needed to solve the for­mula be­fore de­cid­ing whether the an­swer was boyfriend, brother or father.

Screen­shots of the home­work posted by news or­ga­ni­za­tions showed the sub­se­quent ques­tion reads: “Try­ing to sup­port her son as a sin­gle mother, she worked as a pimp, pros­ti­tute and ___.”

Another for­mula must be solved to de­ter­mine if the an­swer was bookie, drug dealer or night­club dancer.

The home­work was cou­pled with a word puz­zle about the book and au­thor, The In­tel­li­gencer news­pa­per re­ported Fri­day.

The as­sign­ment was from a web­site that al­lows teach­ers around the world to share re­sources.

“We apol­o­gize to any­one who was of­fended by the con­tent of the as­sign­ment and have taken steps to avoid such oc­cur­rences in the fu­ture,” Pen­nridge Su­per­in­ten­dent Jac­que­line Rat­ti­gan said in a state­ment, adding the dis­trict had re­ceived com­plaints.

A sim­i­lar home­work as­sign­ment caused con­tro­versy in Fort My­ers, Florida, in 2015. In that case, a mid­dle school teacher also down­loaded the al­ge­bra home­work from an ex­ter­nal web­site. The dis­trict said the veteran teacher didn’t care­fully ex­am­ine the home­work and called it an over­sight.

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” pub­lished in 1969, is as­signed read­ing in many high schools, but is also oc­ca­sion­ally at­tacked for its con­tent.

An­gelou’s pas­sages about her rape and teen preg­nancy have made it a perennial on the Amer­i­can Li­brary As­so­ci­a­tion’s list of works that draw com­plaints from par­ents and ed­u­ca­tors.

“’I thought that it was a mild book. There’s no pro­fan­ity,” An­gelou, who died in 2014, told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “It speaks about sur­viv­ing, and it re­ally doesn’t make ogres of many peo­ple. I was shocked to find there were peo­ple who re­ally wanted it banned, and I still be­lieve peo­ple who are against the book have never read the book.”

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