Students given 'Fifty Shades of Grey' puzzle, a reminder to check homework

Parents are fuming after their middle school students were given a 'Fifty Shades of Grey' word search in school. It serves as a good reminder that checking worksheets and assignments is still important.

Screenshot from WTAE-TV report
A sampling of the 'Fifty Shades of Grey' word search given to middle school student in Pennsylvania.

Spanking is already a controversial word among parents. However, when it appears in a middle school word search in a puzzle based on the erotic film “Fifty Shades of Grey” all parents are more than likely to be in total agreement that it’s downright inappropriate.

The school board meeting at Monessen School District in Pennsylvania heated up Tuesday night, according to the Associated Press, when parents brought the word search puzzle to the attention of the board.

The puzzle, obtained by the Associated Press, contains terms including “spanking,” “submissive,” and “bondage” among other age-inappropriate terms.

The AP reports that the Superintendent Leanne Spazak “can't say who passed out the puzzles or how many students received one.”

According to an assistant to Ms. Spazak who answered the phone at the school district office, the matter is under investigation and no more is being said about it by the district at this time.

While the school officials are remaining quiet while the matter is under investigation, parents still have plenty to say.

While there is always the possibility that a student may have pulled a prank and educators are innocent, the important point is that parents be in touch with what passes through their kid’s hands.

Just to be sure I wasn’t making any assumptions about this incident serving as a grand unifier of parental thinking, I posted a redacted version of the inappropriate puzzle to my Facebook wall and asked my friends to weigh-in. 

Friend Lisa Johnston of Point Pleasant, New Jersey responded, “Omg, that is insane! And to play dumb to the parents about who did it or why!!! Lucy someone got some splaining to do!”

Margaret Hamill Pidgeon, friend and Godmother to my youngest son, quickly posted, “Not for middle school minds. It's very explicit.”

Other friends pointed out, with a wry sense of humor, that at least the puzzle did have words like “obedience” and “entrepreneur.”

On the whole, my eclectic mix of Facebook friends, who can pretty much come to virtual blows on almost anything I post, were united in their opinion that this assignment was not acceptable.

As the mom of four, I personally view this incident as a reminder to stay engaged in your child’s homework process beyond the bounds of elementary school.

I know how hard it becomes to remain involved in the homework process as kids get older and subsequently less friendly about sharing their workload with parents.

Perhaps it’s that pesky independence developing, or the fact that as kids get older the dining room table stops being the homework spot in favor of a desk in their room, a public library, or friend’s home.

Maybe pre-teens and teens worry that if parents know how much they have to do each night we will be more restrictive of their fun time.

In any case, I have found that it gets exponentially harder to get my parental eyes on the homework process starting in middle school.

Although the good news is that when college students home on weekends at my house, they are all over the dining room table and very open to help from parents whom they suddenly view as fonts of knowledge.

While we don’t know the details of how parents learned of this assignment my educated guess is that perhaps a vigilant parent performed a standard homework check. It’s also possible that a student brought it to a parent’s attention because he or she knew it was not age appropriate. 

Either way, this mix up makes it apparent that regular checks on homework and other handouts helps keep parents in-the-know, and kids, in the case, most definitely out-of-the-know of inappropriate content.

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