NEWBURYPORT (CBS) – What was supposed to be just another problem to solve for a freshman math class has turned into a controversy after a teacher used the September 11 attacks as a word problem on a test.

The Newburyport High School teacher used specifics from the September 11 terrorist attacks, down to the flight number.

Many in the Newburyport community took offense to the problem, especially considering resident Tom Pecorelli died on American Airlines Flight 11 that day.

“It’s pretty offensive. 9/11 is a serious tragedy. Thousands of people died that day,” said senior Andrew Kress.

Pat Bavis’ younger brother Mark was one of the 206 people with Massachusetts ties killed in September 11.

Bavis, a professional hockey scout from Roslindale, was aboard United Airlines Flight 175.

“I understand trying to teach education. They’re supposed to be mentors for kids, definitely the wrong example,” Pat Bavis said.

nhs Teacher Apologizes After Using Math Problem About 9/11 Attacks

Newburyport High School. (WBZ-TV)

While some are certainly offended that this math problem was about the 9/11 attacks, some parents and students accept the teacher’s apology.

“She’s a nice woman. I think she just made an honest mistake,” said senior Landyn Murphy.

One mother whose son is in the class agrees.

“I told her thank you for the apology but no worries. Teachers don’t grow and become better teachers if they don’t try new things,” said parent Nicole O’Connor.

The school released this statement reading in part “this was an exercise in poor judgment by the educator who intended to use the historical event as a mechanism to engage students in thoughtful discussion.”

“I wouldn’t call for anyone to be fired over it. I think that would be a little extreme,” one student said.

For Bavis, the news brought up difficult memories.

“This is sacred people, sacred grounds. You don’t bring anything like 9-11 like that. That’s just totally wrong,” said Bavis.

Comments (6)
  1. The question is invalid anyway. Aircraft speed is not measured by MPH, it’s done so in Knots. You would also need to know wind directions and speed to properly equate this. And if there are any feathers on board and from what type of bird. Ok, the last part i made up. I was going in the African Swallow direction.

  2. At least this teacher was trying to put math in practical terms–something seldom done. It’s usually kept in the abstract with no practical application. It bothers me how quick some people are to shut down the conversation. It’s been 17 years since the 9-11 event and we still aren’t supposed to talk about it.


  4. Mark Linder says:

    GET OVER IT!!! People died 16 years ago. No one is making fun of the incident. This teacher is just trying to keep teenagers (who were not born when the towers went down) interested.

    I’m disgusted with the fake outrage.

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