New York Parents Fit to be Tied Over Racy Homework Assignment

Filed under: News, In The News, Weird But True, New In Pop Culture

girl studying picture

Sex, drugs, swearing ... it's all in a day's homework. Credit: Getty Images

Maybe parents in New York City ought to save themselves some time and set their dials to permanent sputter.

Moral outrage abounds these days.

Last month, they grabbed the torches and pitchforks when an art teacher at PS 70 revealed she was a former prostitute. Now, just in time to keep those torches lit, comes a substitute teacher in Queens who junked the planned reading assignment for a racy novel.

Students in an honors writing class at Robert Goddard High School were supposed to read "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," a perfectly wholesome story about a headless horseman who rides around looking for people to decapitate.

Instead, they were assigned a passage from "The Rules of Attraction," the 1998 novel by Brett Easton Ellis about self-absorbed college students in a world of sex, drugs, angst and language that would make a sailor blush. The plot involves topics such as abortion and suicide.

However, the assignment wasn't to read the whole book. Just a passage.

Nonetheless, CBS News reports, Melissa Naprawa is among the parents livid over the incident. Her 16-year-old daughter, Giavanna Grasso, is none too happy either.

"The homework was to find the most descriptive parts," the teen tells CBS News. "The only descriptive parts were the parts where they were doing sexual things."

Naprawa tells the network she found the assignment appallingly inappropriate.

"I just don't understand where the teacher's head was in this when she assigned this," she says.

One place teacher Nancy Filingeri's head is not being found these days is Robert Goddard High School. Officials at the New York City Department of Education tell CBS News she won't be returning to class. The 22-year-old's future as a New York City teacher, they add, remains in severe doubt.

They tell the network she came up with the assignment on her own. "The Rules of Attraction" was not part of the class curriculum. Students were supposed to stick to gentle, unoffending authors such as Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury.

Perhaps they could read Poe's "The Mystery of Marie Roget," inspired by the 1841 rape and murder of 21-year-old woman in New York. Of course, that story involves abortion and suicide, too.

Abortion, suicide, sex, profanity and violence all play big roles in Bradbury's "Farenheit 451," as well. The 1951 novel, set in a world where books are considered dangerous, is often banned from public schools.

Some books, parents fear, might get adolescents thinking about sex and using bad language.

That could be why "The Rules of Attraction" is so attractive among young readers.

"It's practically a de facto brochure for the awesome anarchy that is liberal arts school," writes Foster Kamer of The Village Voice in response to the controversy. "If there are any reasons to go to college besides to get a college education -- the job-market value of which is dropping by the day -- they're in that book."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.