Justice

Student's Sexist High School Assignment Is Going Viral

The parent of a Utah high school student posted her daughter's sexist class assignment — which asked female students to go on a "$5 date" with a male classmate — and it went viral, generating outrage over its apparent misogyny and heteronormative assumptions.

The assignment was part of a Utah database of approved classroom materials, but has now been pulled. And the teacher who made the assignment is reportedly "mortified" by it. (More on this later.)

5 dollar date

The assignment.

"Your assignment is to go on a date!" That is the note posted by Jenn Oxborrow, the concerned parent of Lucy Mulligan, a Highland High School student. "But, the catch is you can only spend $5.00, this does not include gas. Below is a list of suggestions from the boys. Make sure you try and follow items suggested by the boys below. Be creative!"

The girls are instructed to "write a brief summary of what you did" and "describe how the date went" and "have your date sign the bottom." The assignment added: "GOOD LUCK and HAVE FUN!"

 

Suggestions for the girls.

The girls are told to "eat the food you order. Don't waste his money," and, "If you think you're too fat, etc., keep it to yourself." The assignment also advised: "Keep to your standards," though it's unclear what that means.

5 dollar date suggestions

Suggestions for the boys.

The male classmates get a different set of instructions:

5 dollar suggestions

You're not alone if you think this assignment is sexist, ignores non-heterosexual students or shouldn't have been given in the first place.

Oxborrow posted the assignment to her Facebook page, and it was flooded with comments not only from baffled parents whose children also attend the Salt Lake City high school, but also from people all over the country.

"I was horrified," Oxborrow told The Guardian. "It wasn’t the first time that we had seen content that was gender-biased in this class. But this was over the top. As a teacher, you have a responsibility to be inclusive and to think very carefully about the message you’re sharing. I just thought it was so bizarre. The girls’ assignment was essentially based around how to please boys."

The school's response.

The teacher who made the assignment — who has not been identified — is now "mortified," Highland school principal Chris Jenson told The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday. "She wanted it to be a light-hearted lesson in social norms," Jenson told the newspaper.

5 dollar date suggestions

The teacher did not write or create the assignment: It came from a "database of approved classroom materials maintained by the state," Jenson told the Tribune.

A spokesman for the Utah Board of Education, Mark Peterson, told the Tribune that the "inappropriate" assignment has since been pulled from the database.

"There's no doubt that there is gender bias in the assignment," Jenson added. "There are some things that are relatively arcane in that assignment and that need to be updated or gotten rid of."

Mulligan, the student whose mother posted the assignment, agreed. "Teachers should be a reliable source of information, and this doesn't seem like an educated assignment, or an assignment that would teach you anything at all," Mulligan told the Tribune.

ATTN: has reached out to Highland High School for comment and will update this story when we receive a response.

Sexism in high school.

The assignment reinforced the notion that young women should think about their place in the world mainly in relation to men. That's not a good place.

And Highland High is not the only place where these attitudes exist. For example, many high schools enforce dress codes that punish female students but are silent about male students' attire.

Surely there are other ways to teach social norms besides asking high school girls to date male classmates while reinforcing stereotypes about men and women.

[H/T The Guardian]