Mom Says Math Homework is Racist
A middle-school math teacher is in the hot seat for including an image of a toothless black man on a homework sheet, and at least one parent is calling the illustration racist.
The Courier Times in Bucks County, Pa., reports that the African-American parent of an eighth-grader at Lenape Middle School was so distressed over the image of a black, toothless man on her son's math homework that she kept the boy home from school the following day.
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"I couldn't understand what I was looking at," says the woman, whose identity was not revealed by the newspaper. The work sheet, titled "Solving Equations using Multiplication and Division!," featured a photo of a black man in a straw hat and a shirt and suspenders, his mostly toothless mouth agape. Underneath the picture is the grammatically incorrect phrase, "NO WAI!!!"School district spokeswoman Karen Smith says that teacher Matthew Curran often uses photos and cartoons on his worksheets, and sent an e-mail to the Courier including a statement from Curran.
"I chose it because it said 'no way,' which is a comment my students make when I require them to show each calculation," he writes in an e-mail. "I had no idea that I might offend anyone. I am very sorry for any distress that this has caused my students and the community." Curran claims that he found the image through a Google search for "multiply and divide."
The student's mother was not only distressed by the image, but also by reports of what happened to her son when his classmates saw the work sheet. The boy is the only African-American student in the pre-algebra class, and he says he was teased by other students.
"One of the kids in the classroom turned around and said, 'Is that your father?,' " she tells the Courier. "We are highly insulted and offended. We sent him to school to learn pre-algebra. He should be protected from this stuff, not have it thrown in his face ... He gets enough (racial slurs) and negativity from the kids. To have the teacher encourage it?"
The boy's family met with NAACP Bucks County President John Jordan, and released a written statement about the incident, the Courier reports.
"It brings into question whether all of our children are being provided a safe and fair environment in which to learn. What happened here is unacceptable, and we will take steps to make sure it never happens again," the statement reads.
According to the NAACP, several other students expressed their concerns about the picture, but the teacher told the kids to keep working, says the boy's mom. She did, however, ask her own son why he didn't leave the classroom. "He said, 'Mommy, I'm in school.' He knows the rules. He has to follow the rules," she tells the Courier. "He's trying to get on the honor roll right now."
Nick Chubb, Lenape Middle School principal, declined to comment but did tell the newspaper that administrators are investigating the matter. In the meantime, the boy's mother is keeping her child home until the situation is resolved.
"Racism is usually so subtle. To have it so blatant is what is so shocking," she says. "Hopefully, we can all learn from this and move forward in a positive way -- for everyone, not just the black kids or the Hispanic kids or the Jewish kids or the other subgroups ... We need some peace and understanding. I don't want hate."