Two parents in Queens were outraged after their five-year-old daughter was asked to complete a spelling worksheet that featured the words "gun" and "rob," but officials at the Department of Education said Wednesday that the teacher, who brought the offending worksheet from a previous school, has apologized.
Many parents are concerned about gun violence, so Lawrence Gillman almost hit the ceiling when his 5-year-old pulled out a surprising homework sheet.
"I looked at it and I seen the word ‘gun’ on it. The first thing I thought was ‘oh no no no,’ I don't want you reading it, I don't want you spelling it. I don't even want you looking at the picture," said Gillman.
His daughter goes to P.S. 201 in Queens and is learning sounds and letters, but Gillman says teaching words like “gun” and showing a cartoon image of one is out of touch.
The same sheet had a picture of a robber running with a gun and a bag of money.
"You're teaching them that guns are okay because you're putting it in their homework, you're teaching them that robbing is okay because you're putting it in their homework," said Takiema Reynolds, the girl’s mother.
Other parents with young children at P.S. 201 where just as shocked by the use of words.
"I teach my kids not to play with guns, don't aim or do any of that. I don't think it is good at all," said one parent.
"If you are going to use that, you have to explain what you are doing and why you are doing it," said another.
While at the school, NY1 spoke to other people in the area, including a police officer who said the homework was inappropriate.
Still, the parent of a fourth grader said it was nothing more than a phonics lesson.
Dr. Peggy McNamara, chair of teacher education at the Bank Street College of Education, said it doesn't surprise her that the sheet was used. She said teachers have to check the work produced by curriculum companies.
"I think the issue would be with this particular company. What are they thinking about when they put ‘gun’ and ‘rob’ on a page?” said McNamara. “Do they really think about where this goes and the sensitivities of different communities where a kid might use this?"
Officials at the Department of Education say the teacher brought the homework assignment with her from a previous school and has apologized. The principal will monitor assignments to avoid a similar problem.
Parents said that's exactly what they want.