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School apologizes after teacher assigns math problem referencing 9/11 attacks

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Newburyport High School in Newburyport, Massachusetts, apologized on Wednesday for allowing a math problem that referenced the 9/11 attacks into the teaching curriculum.

What happened?

According to WFXT-TV reporter Kathryn Burcham, a math teacher wrote, "Flight 175, one of the 9/11 planes, was traveling 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?"

What was the backlash over the incident?

According to WFXT, parents were outraged over the 9/11 reference, and reminded administrators that Tom Pecorelli — a Newburyport High School alum — was killed in the 9/11 attacks after Flight 11 departed from Boston.

One parent said, "I thought it was inappropriate. I disagree with that totally, wholeheartedly."

A grandparent added, "Thinking about something so sad, with everything else going on in the world, I don’t think it was the right thing to do."

Pecorelli's sister, Angela Wadleigh, told WFXT, "Out of thousands of examples you could use in math, this is not one you could use."

"It might have been 16 years ago, but to some of us, it’s 16 minutes ago. It’s something you don’t ever recover from, ever," she said, and added that the teacher should personally apologize for the incident.

What did the school say?

Newburyport Public Schools Superintendent Susan Viccaro told WFXT that no disrespect was intended by the math question, and that "poor judgment" was exercised by the teacher.

"This 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 mechanism to engage students in a thoughtful discussion," Viccaro said.

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