Parents at Pennridge High School in Pennsylvania are outraged after learning a homework assignment included a question prompting students to solve who sexually abused award-winning activist and author Maya Angelou when she was 8 years old.
According to CBS Philly, the math question read, “Angelou was sexually abused by her mother’s ___ at age 8, which shaped her career choices and motivation for writing.”
Using the math formula given, students were asked to figure out if her mother’s boyfriend, brother, or father sexually assaulted Angelou.
Following complaints, the Pennridge School District apologized for the worksheet in a statement.
“The homework worksheet in question was downloaded from a website that allows teachers around the world to share educational resources. It is not part of our approved curriculum,” superintendent Dr. Jacqueline Rattigan said in the statement.
High school teacher Clint Clark told BuzzFeed News he created the question in an attempt to honor Angelou’s legacy of being a voice for abuse victims.
He said he wanted to “show that other kids who have gone through difficult experiences are not alone.”
“I wanted them to know they could live to perhaps be the greatest poet in American history,” Clark said.
But given the backlash, Clark said he is now considering whether there is a more sensitive way to convey this message.
“I’m imagining the faces of dozens of students and how best to share this important story so that it may cause less waves in classrooms that are not my own,” he said.
While Clark’s notion behind the question is well-intentioned, the possible trauma questions like this can cause — especially for impressionable youth — negates any value obtained.
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