When parents of students attending a high school near Houston, Texas, reviewed a homework assignment given to their children, one question left them outraged. It was brought to the attention of administrators, and after reading the question for themselves, the district said they took “appropriate corrective action.”
Cookie VonHaven can’t fathom why a teacher would have included a specific question on a take-home assignment that was handed out to approximately 90 students at Klein Collins High School in Spring, Texas, where her daughter is in the 10th grade. The mom was stunned when she became aware of the question, which referenced rape as part of a biology DNA assignment.
“Suzy was assaulted in an alley and is a victim of rape. The police collected a sample of sperm that was left at the crime scene and now have three suspects in custody. Which of the suspects raped Suzy?” the question that sparked a homework controversy read. A parent sent KPRC 2 a photo of the assignment, showing how the question was phrased.
“It’s upsetting, and I know — girls this age — the thought of — I mean, they know that rape is forced non-consensual sex and that upsets them. That’s why I can’t fathom a teacher putting that on a test,” Cookie VonHaven said, explaining her confusion and outrage over the question.
Klein Independent School District confirmed that a teacher at the school sent the worksheet home on a Friday as part of a take-home assignment, and the district admitted that it contained the “inappropriate homework question.” That admission received varied reactions from parents and students at Klein Collins, ranging from surprised and confused to outraged, Click 2 Houston reported, saying a lot of parents told them that they would have to go home and have “very uncomfortable conversations with their children.”
Some questioned whether the homework had been approved by the district or if the teacher composed it themselves without any oversight. “Wouldn’t (the teacher) have to get that approved by the school board or teachers or something to put that in there,” Dana Duplantier, the mother of a ninth-grader at the school, asked.
A statement from the district addressed that concern for parents. “The assignment is not part of the District’s approved curriculum and is by no means representative of the District’s instructional philosophy,” the statement released by the district said. “The District has investigated the source of the materials and appropriate corrective action has been taken.”
Although the district said they could not comment on what, specifically, the corrective action involved, that was good enough for some parents. “As long as there’s something done with the teacher, I’m okay with that,” Dana Duplantier said. But, as news of the homework controversy spread online, a debate ensued as others discussed whether the question was really that out of line, considering the age of the children and the subject matter.
“I’m a big proponent of supporting teachers, but this is an example of why some parents think teachers are stupid. Of all the ways to format the value of DNA sequencing, the teacher had to use the lowest societal example,” one online commenter complained, expressing an issue many parents at the school had with the question. “What was once ‘out of bounds’ behavior, just became another science project. And, normalizing abhorrent behavior is how the ghetto continues to fall (behaviorally) so far behind mainstream families.”
Others disagreed since rape is a real danger and, as Cookie VonHaven said, high school teens already know what it is because they’ve been taught and warned about it. One of the benefits of DNA testing is the ability to catch criminals. So, was the question that out of line? Like the reactions from the parents, reactions online varied. While there were those who expressed outrage and disgust, there were also those who defended the teacher’s question, saying, “It’s biology. They’re in high school. Grow up.”
“Seems like a perfectly legitimate example of how DNA matching is used in the real world. God forbid someone mention the word ‘rape’ in front of high-schoolers these days,” another online commenter wrote with another adding that the question made “complete sense, especially in the era we are in.” Perhaps that’s what should really upset parents and where they should focus their energy. There’s a reason this teacher didn’t feel the question pushed the limits, and that’s likely because it’s a scenario that actually happens all too often.