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Online publisher pulls assignment on immigration after outcry

By Gustavo Valdez, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The reading exercise was given to third-graders as homework
  • Kelly Avalos says her brother's assignment was "not appropriate"
  • The assignment came from an educational publisher
  • The publisher says an assignment question showed poor judgment

Atlanta (CNN) -- An online publisher of educational material is pulling one of its reading assignments, sent to third-graders at a Georgia school, after complaints that some of its elements are offensive.

"What is an Illegal Alien?" is the title of the reading exercise, aimed at third-graders. It was given to students of Chesney Elementary School in the Atlanta suburb of Duluth, Georgia, as homework, along with other material.

One multiple-choice question asks: "What does the U.S. do with illegal aliens?" and offered the following answers -- "The U.S. puts them to death; The U.S. sends them back to where they came from; The U.S. puts them to work in the Army; The U.S. shoots them into outer space."

It was the first and last answers that caught the attention of Kelly Avalos when her 9-year-old brother asked her for help with the assignment.

"The homework assignment was not appropriate," she said, especially in Georgia, where state lawmakers are considering a tough immigration law that would require employers to verify workers' legal status.

"The questions and story were disturbing, and I felt offended by the questions asked," Avalos said. "My brother is in third grade, and I don't feel he needs to be reading things such as putting another human to death because of their legal status ... the idea of it upsets me."

The material came from a site called Edhelper.com, a subscription service that offers an array of material covering many school subjects for all grades. The website says the service was created by a team of teachers.

School officials agreed with Avalos. Gwinnett County Public Schools spokesman Jorge Quintana said the teacher did not use good judgment by selecting the item as homework for students.

"Teachers have the option to use additional and supplemental material for education purposes," he said, "but this particular material was not approved by the school district."

The school system has established procedures to vet material that teachers select for use in their classes. Those procedures were not followed, he said, and the teacher obtained the material without school administrators' knowledge or approval.

"We have received a lot of feedback on this article," Edhelper.com said in a statement to CNN. "The question that was discussed, we felt was in poor judgment and has been removed from the article. The main goal of the article was to teach comprehension and also that people need permission before going to another country."

The reading exercise was no longer available Tuesday on the site.

The school district declined to identify the teacher, citing privacy issues, but Quintana said she could face reprimand and receive additional training to avoid similar incidents in the future.

Avalos, meanwhile, told CNN affiliate WXIA that she hopes parents will be more vigilant regarding what their children bring home as homework. "This could actually mold their minds," she said.