Some fourth graders at Silver Lake Elementary School received a homework assignment last week that has raised the eyebrows of at least one child's parents.
Some fourth graders at Silver Lake Elementary School received a homework assignment last week that has raised the eyebrows of at least one child’s parents.
“My 9-year-old daughter was doing her homework Monday night when she turned to my wife and said, ‘Mommy, what’s cocaine,’” Middletown resident Michael Gratkowski said last week. “My wife was shocked and asked her where this was coming from.”
It turned out his daughter’s unexpected question about a Schedule II controlled substance was prompted by a homework assignment that asked students to complete 12 sentences using words that start with the prefixes in- or il-.
The first question on that assignment: “Selling cocaine is ________ in the U.S.A.”
“I was speechless when she showed it to me,” Gratkowski said. “Obviously the answer is ‘illegal,’ but it seems to me there are so many other sentences that could have been used instead. With a drug epidemic out there affecting children and adults, I just don’t think asking fourth graders questions about cocaine is appropriate.”
Silver Lake Elementary School Principal Cyndi Clay said she agrees.
“I think, clearly, this was an error in judgment on the teacher’s part,” she said Monday. “I’ve spoken to the teacher about it and I am certain there was no malintent. It was the type of mistake that we’re all capable of making from time to time, and I’m certain it will not happen again.”
Clay said the assignment was pulled directly from a workbook in the “Practice Makes Perfect” series published by Teacher Created Resources. The California-based company has been producing resource books, school supplies and free lessons “created by teachers for teachers and parents,” for 37 years, according to its website.
Dianne Kelly, a marketing director with Teacher Created Resources, said the company previously had not received any complaints about the question, which has appeared is editions of the workbook since 2006.
“We can understand why some people may take issue with this question and we will be changing it to something less sensitive,” she said via e-mail. “It is never our intention to be contentious. Our goal is always to provide the best quality resources for teachers and students.”
Clay said the school also has not received any complaints, aside from those lodged by Gratkowski, who posted a photograph of his daughter’s homework assignment on the Middletown Transcript’s Facebook page on March 27.
She said the teacher purchased the workbook with her own money and the homework assignment was distributed without any prior authorization from the school or the Appoquinimink School District.
“All homework assignments are selected entirely by our teachers and are never required to be pre-approved by the school or the district,” she said. “But it is the teacher’s responsibility to be mindful of what they are sending home and the impact those assignments might have on families.”
Clay said the teacher who distributed the assignment would not be disciplined for the oversight. However, the principal said she does intend to remind her staff to be extra careful of what they are sending home and how that material might be interpreted.
Gratkowski said he also does not believe the teacher should be disciplined.
“Everyone has a bad day and I’m sure she thought this was from a reputable source,” he said. “But I still think there’s no way that assignment should be used by another teacher in the Appoqunimink School District or anywhere for that matter.”