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Math Lesson Doesn't Add Up for Some

Parents voice dismay that an anti-drug effort included calculating costs of narcotics.

October 25, 2003|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

Is my kid in a math class? Or a meth class?

That's what some San Dimas parents were wondering Friday when they discovered that drug-dealing economics had been added to the curriculum of one seventh-grade mathematics class.

Youngsters at Lone Hill Middle School found themselves calculating the cost of buying cocaine, heroin and other illegal narcotics, along with the usual lessons in computation with fractions and decimals and use of algebraic equations.

"Samantha came home Wednesday and told us she's 'addicted to marijuana' and 'has a $300 drug habit,' " said one parent, Diana Mitchell. "Everyone in the class has to figure out how much their drug costs, how much they need and how much they spend on it. My husband and I were both stunned."

Her 12-year-old daughter was excited about the classroom project, in which students were assigned made-up "careers" and "drug habits" and told to figure out how much illegal drugs they could afford on their imaginary salaries, she said.

"She thinks it's cool. That upset me too," Mitchell said.

Making drugs seem cool is the opposite of what teacher Rebecca Sparks was attempting, said Mitch Hovey, an assistant superintendent of the Bonita Unified School District. He said the assignment had been part of the school's "Red Ribbon Week" anti-drug campaign.

"I think she shared that these kinds of habits are going to cost you in the long run," he said. "I believe in her heart the explanation was, 'Hey, kids, you can get off on the wrong path.' " He declined to allow the teacher to speak about the lesson.

Parents waiting to pick up their children outside the campus were surprised by the curriculum.

"I certainly don't want my sixth-grader doing that. The temptations kids already have are bad enough," Laura Megginson said.

Rick Malone, father of a seventh-grader, said, "This is certainly an inappropriate way to convey the negativity of drugs."

Hovey acknowledged that administrators should have done a better job of communicating the project to parents.

Next year, he hinted, Red Ribbon Week might come with a red flag warning.

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