School apologizes for 'disrespectful' 9/11 math problem

Posted at 1:27 AM, Nov 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-02 01:27:31-04

NEWBURYPORT, MA (WFXT/CNN) – Parents in Massachusetts are outraged after their high school students were asked to solve a math problem about 9/11.

A problem asking students to determine how long United Flight 175 was in the air before hitting the World Trade Center appeared on algebra homework at Newburyport High School.

"Thinking about something so sad with everything else going on in the world, I don't think it was the right thing to do,” grandparent Carol Bogard said.

Parents say there’s no excuse for the inappropriate question or how it was worded.

“Flight 175, one of 9/11 planes, was traveling at 586 miles per hour when it hit the World Trade Center. It had traveled a distance of 440 miles before impact. How many minutes was the plane in the air?” the question read.

What’s worse, parents say, is the fact that the school has a personal connection to the tragedy. Tom Pecorelli, a Newburyport High alumnus, was killed on American Airlines Flight 11.

"It's very disrespectful. That's one of the first things that comes to mind: it's really disrespectful,” said Pecorelli’s sister, Angela Wadleigh.

Wadleigh says when she heard the question, it immediately took her back to the worst day of her life.

"Out of thousands of examples that they could use in math, this is not one you could use in math,” Wadleigh said.

Wadleigh says the teacher owes her and other 9/11 families an apology.

"It might have been 16 years ago to some people, but to some of us, it's 16 minutes ago. It's something you don't recover from ever,” she said.

Superintendent Susan Viccaro said in a statement that the assignment was not intended to be disrespectful.

“This was an exercise of poor judgment by the educator who intended to use the historical event as a mechanics to engage students in a thoughtful discussion,” the statement read.

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