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Texas parents shocked: Fourth-grade homework questions include death, infidelity

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El Paso parents were shocked when their kids came home with what they felt was an “inappropriate reading assignment” for a fourth-grade student. The assignment involved adult-oriented situations such as marital infidelity and the death of a child.

The parents would never have known about it because it was an in-class assignment. But when some students didn’t complete it in time, they were allowed to finish it at home, according to NBC El Paso affiliate KTSM.

The idea was to have the students read a series of paragraphs, then draw an inference as to what was going on.

Here’s a transcript of one of the questions, as provided by the station:

Ruby sat on the bed she shared with her husband holding a hairclip. There was something mysterious and powerful about the cheaply manufactured neon clip that she was fondling suspiciously. She didn’t recognize the hairclip. It was too big to be their daughter’s, and Ruby was sure that it wasn’t hers. She hadn’t had friends over in weeks but there was this hairclip, little and green with a few long black hair strands caught in it. Ruby ran her fingers through her own blonde hair. She had just been vacuuming when she noticed this small, bright green object under the bed. Now their life would never be the same. She would wait here until Mike returned home.

  1. Why is Ruby so affected by the hairclip?
  2. How has the hairclip affected Ruby’s relationship?

Here’s the actual question:


“I think life situations like that should be taught at home, not at school,” said Ursula Silverstein, whose 10-year-old daughter was one of the students who brought the assignment home with her.

“Why would the teacher give them that type of assignment, you know? It could be something about nature or planets. But something about that, it’s very inappropriate,” Nancy Desantiago, another parent told the station.

This exact question was given to fourth-graders at an Arizona elementary School in February.

Yet another went like this:

Valerie opened up the letter from the military department. She felt the pit of her stomach drop to the bottom of the earth before she even opened it. She knew it was news about John. As she read the first line, she thought of all of the lunches she had packed him and all the nights she tucked him in his bed and warded off the nighttime monsters. The man carrying the flag put his hand on her shoulder. She thought of the day that John signed up for the military. Her tears wet the letter. She stopped reading after the first line.

  1. What does the letter say?
  2. What is Valerie’s relationship to John?

Here’s the actual question:


The Ysleta Independent School District released an apology to parents Thursday, calling the assignment “unacceptable.”

“YISD administration is aware of an unacceptable assignment that was given to a fourth-grade class at Pasodale Elementary,” the statement said. “We apologize to the students and the parents who received this assignment,” the statement said. “Campus administration has addressed the issue with the teacher, and has taken decisive measures to assure that future assignments are aligned to the curriculum and are of the highest instructional caliber.”

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