Pittsburgh, PA – Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) said it has launched an investigation into why a group of first-graders was given a homework reading assignment focused on running away from police.
“Tom will run. He will run from the cop,” the assignment read. “Tom will run with Rob. They will not stop.”
The students’ homework also contained grammatical errors.
“’Get them!’ yells the cop to his dog. The dog gets Tom and Rob. Rob’s socks is wet from the pond,” the story concluded.
School District Solicitor Ira Weiss said that two Pittsburgh Linden PreK-5 teachers were involved in distributing the assignments to students, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
“We have become aware of an inappropriate homework assignment that was distributed to 1st grade students…The worksheet is not a part of the District’s curriculum or intervention programs,” PPS tweeted on Thursday.
“While we continue to support teacher autonomy to supplement classroom materials to meet the needs of their students, we must ensure that all materials placed in front of our students are culturally responsive, validating and affirming their cultural and ethnic identities,” the school district added.
The source of the materials remains under investigation, and PPS referred to the incident as a “personnel matter.”
Superintendent Anthony Hamlet denounced the assignment, and said he was “dismayed” to learn it had been distributed to students, WTAE reported.
“Not only does the content send the wrong message to our students, but is also does not meet our expectations for student instruction,” Hamlet added.
Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said that the message of the assignment undermines the efforts law enforcement officers make to develop positive relationships with citizens – including children, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
“I found the assignment to be so utterly irresponsible and depressing, I’m at a loss for words,” Superintendent McDonough said.
Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge 1 President Robert Swartzwelder said that the assignment essentially encouraged children to work against police.
“You’re sort of encouraging people to resist, you’re encouraging them to engage in flight at a very young age when everyone knows that if you comply with an officer’s directives that there’s a 99.9 percent chance that nothing will happen,” Swartzwelder told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You don’t want to encourage anyone to flee.”
But Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers President Nina Esposito-Visgitis argued that parents were to blame for causing the widespread outrage regarding the assignment
Instead of posting the assignment on social media, parents should have gone to the teachers directly, she scolded.
“It’s very unfortunate that instead of someone asking the teachers what happened, it blew up on social media, and I mean the parents,” Esposito-Visgitis told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I’m going to go to the teachers first and ask them what happened because that’s what I think is socially appropriate to do.”
“I’m not saying what was written there was appropriate,” she added. “What was written there was disgusting. What was written there should never have been written.”
School Board President Lynda Wrenn said she believed the reading assignment was given to students by accident.
“That’s not the message we want to send to our kids,” Wrenn told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You don’t want kids reading that they should be running from the police. It could be a matter of life and death. It’s a bad example on many levels.”
The homework packet appeared to have been created by a company called Kadeen Whitby, WTAE reported.