Parents Are Outraged at This Racially Insensitive Second-Grade Math Assignment

February 15th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

Black second-grade students at a California elementary school recently received math homework that has parents wondering why it was assigned, especially during Black History Month.

“We just took a million steps backwards,” Kelly Gray, whose daughter received the controversial homework assignment at Windsor Elementary, a math and science magnet school in Los Angeles, told local station NBC 4 on Feb. 11.

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Fred Loc posted an image of the assignment, which asked students to count the number of slaves needed in a plantation's cotton field, on Facebook Feb. 11 where it has accumulated over 10,000 shares.

Karole Gray, whose granddaughter received the homework assignment, said someone should have realized it was racially insensitive and stopped it before it reached multiple second-grade classes.

"I don't believe anybody was being malicious but nobody was being cautious," she told NBC 4. About 88 percent of the school's students are black based on 2013 state data, The Los Angeles Times reported.


The question reads: "The master needed 192 slaves to work on a plantation in the cotton fields. The fields could fill 75 bags of cotton. Only 96 slaves were able to pick cotton for that day. The missus needed them in the Big House to [prepare] for the Annual Picnic. How many more slaves are needed in the cotton fields?"

In response to the outcry from parents, the Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent released the following statement:

"I want to reassure our families that L.A. Unified is committed to providing a safe, welcoming, nurturing and secure learning environment for our students. All employees are expected to treat students with respect. The District takes this matter seriously, investigated it and took appropriate administrative measures."

People on Twitter had strong reactions to the homework assignment, including former first daughter Chelsea Clinton.

This is not the first racially insensitive school assignment.

In 2015, McGraw-Hill revised a geography textbook after one of its textbooks described African slaves in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade as "workers."

There was also a proposed Mexican-American history book in Texas that historians said in September was filled with errors and made controversial assertions about Mexican-Americans, which caused strong public backlash.

"Stereotypically, Mexicans were viewed as lazy compared to European or American workers ... It was also traditional to skip work on Mondays, and drinking on the job could be a problem," read one part of the book, according to the Texas Tribune. After the controversy, the Texas State Board of Education rejected the book in November.

RELATED: A Textbook Filled With Racist Errors Is Causing Debate in Texas