School Apologizes For 9/11 Math Problem

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A high school in Massachusetts apologized after one of its teachers asked students to solve a math problem about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

A teacher at Newburyport High School asked algebra students to figure out how long one of the planes that struck the World Trade Center was in the air before impact, reports WFXT via CNN.

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

The problem angered parents and area residents.

"I thought it was inappropriate," parent Paula Quill told WFXT. "I disagree with that totally, wholeheartedly."

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"Mind-boggling to me; so insensitive," said Newburyport resident Dave Quinones, WHDH reports. "I don’t know what they’re thinking."

“I would say that kind of missed the mark," added resident Angelica Faron. "I don’t see the necessity to do that."

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

Parents also found the question disrespectful for another reason: one of the school's alumni, Tom Pecorelli, was actually killed on American Airlines Flight 11.

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"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, adding: "Out of thousands of examples that they could use in math, this is not one you could use."

Wadleigh urged the teacher to apologize to her and other families affected by the tragedy.

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

The school eventually did extend an official apology.

"This assignment was not intended to be disrespectful to the thousands impacted by this horrible event," said Superintendent Susan Viccaro, according to "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."

"We will work with our educators to find more respectful and mindful ways to continue the important and valuable discussions that should take place around these significant events without diminishing or otherwise disregarding the respect and reverence that is due," added Viccaro.

Viccaro's statement did not say whether the school disciplined the teacher who wrote the question.

Sources: WFXT/CNN via WALBWHDH, WFXT, / Featured Image: 9/11 Photos/Flickr  / Embedded Images: NOAA/Wikimedia Commons, National Park Service/Wikimedia Commons

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