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NORCROSS | Principal responds to homework controversy | Education

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NORCROSS | Principal responds to homework controversy

NORCROSS, Ga. (WXIA) -- The principal of Beaver Ridge Elementary School said he expects lessons to be appropriate and provide a connection between subject areas, but also said that didn't happen when students at his school were given math homework with questions about slavery.

VIDEO | District investigating homework on slavery

Jose DeJesus told the Gwinnett Daily Post that he understood parents' concerns.

A worksheet distributed to four third-grade classes at the Norcross school asks students to solve the question: "Each tree had 56 oranges. If 8 slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?"

Another question asks: "If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?"

DeJesus said third graders had been reading about Frederick Douglass, a former slave. He said the questions were an attempt at incorporating some of what students had been discussing in social studies with their math activity.

Civil rights activists protested the assignment, marching outside the school Tuesday afternoon and calling for the firing of the two teachers who wrote the questions.

PHOTOS | Slavery-tinged math questions outrage parents

Beaver Ridge parent Chris Braxton said he first saw the problems last Wednesday when his son asked for help with his homework. 

"When I saw that question, I called my wife from the other room and said, look! Did you see that question? Now my son is asking questions about slaves and beatings and I have to explain all that to him. I felt he wasn't ready for that yet," Braxton said, adding that he and his wife Nicole Thompson are thinking of transferring their son to another school.

Braxton and Thompson met with DeJesus Tuesday afternoon. The couple said the principal apologized to them and told them they are investigating the incident, but would not give a timeline for when a decision could be announced.

Thompson said school officials told her two teachers wrote the questions and that her son's teacher has not been at school since last week. A substitute has taken over until the investigation is completed.

Gwinnett County School spokesperson Sloan Roach told 11Alive that the teachers who wrote the questions were trying to create a cross-curricular assignment, mixing social studies with math. Roach said the district acknowledges the questions were inappropriate.

"There's a lot of these types of assignments that go out that the principal doesn't see," Roach said. "In this case, it was a teacher-based assignment."

"This was not done intentionally, there was no intent behind it, these were just not good questions that were asked," she added.

The problems were written by one teacher and photocopied by another before being distributed to four of the school's nine third grade classes. Both teachers are now facing a district human resources investigation.

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