Bucks NAACP protests class handout image Eighth graders got a "disparaging" picture of a black man as part of math homework.

Posted: October 28, 2009

The Bucks County NAACP called for disciplinary action and teacher sensitivity training in the Central Bucks School District yesterday after an eighth-grade math class at Lenape Middle School got a homework assignment with an image of a black man that the group called "insulting" and "disparaging."

The picture - with the caption "Solving Equations Using Multiplication and Division!" - shows an unshaven black man with a straw hat and a gaping mouth missing most teeth. Beneath it is the slang expression "No Wai!!!"

The principal of the Doylestown school, NAACP officials, and the parents of an African American student in the class met yesterday about the incident. NAACP president John Jordan said he was satisfied with the outcome, which he said would include "consequences" for the teacher and training for the staff.

Principal Nick Chubb said, "I believe the meeting was productive, and we're working toward a resolution." He would not say whether the teacher would be disciplined.

The teacher was identified as Matthew Curran. In a statement released by the district, he apologized, saying he "had no idea that I might offend anyone" with the picture, which he said he got off the Internet.

He said he chose the picture because the term no way "is a comment my students make when I require them to show each calculation."

Jordan said, "We have a problem with sensitivity. Some things are totally uncalled for and unnecessary, and this was one of them."

He said he was told that some students in the class questioned the use of the picture when it was handed out Friday. Others, he said, asked the one African American student in the class "if that was his father."

Asked his reaction to Curran's apology, he said: "Apologies are sometimes nothing more than 'I'm sorry I got caught.' "

He added that if sensitivity and diversity training for staff had been "in place in the school district, I don't think there is any way this picture could have been used."

Curran did not respond to a message to his school e-mail address asking for comment.

Chubb said in an interview yesterday: "I think everyone regrets what happened. . . . We are looking at all options and will pursue what we believe is best for everyone involved."

Asked whether the school, which has 840 pupils, plans to hold sensitivity training, he said, "That may be part of the solution."

Contact staff writer Dan Hardy at 610-313-8134 or dhardy@phillynews.com.

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