Kids Asked To Draw Mug Shots of People With Addiction For Homework

By Kelly Burch 12/15/17

The school's principal says that the assignment—while controversial—has succeeded in starting an important conversation. 

Young girl drawing with schoolboy in background

Sixth-grade students in Brandywine, Delaware recently came home with an unusual homework assignment for health class: to draw mug shots of people battling addiction. The school insisted that the assignment was an important part of an ongoing discussion of drug abuse, but some parents were offended by the homework. 

Students were sent home with a worksheet titled “Who’s on Drugs,” that tasked students with writing a story about people with addiction and drawing their mug shots. 

"Yes, this assignment has definitely caught a lot of attention, which I think in turn will be helpful," Talley Middle School Principal Mark Mayer told Delaware Online on Wednesday.

He addressed concerns in more detail in a letter that was sent home to parents and posted on Facebook

"The assignment followed more than a week of readings and discussions about addiction and was intended to make students think critically about how widespread the problem is and how there is no one 'face' of addiction or one type of person who is affected by addiction," Mayer wrote. “This is a very important topic, one we address with our students in 6th, 7th and 8th grade.”

He said that the assignment—while controversial—has succeeded in starting an important conversation. 

“Sadly many people throughout our community, state and country may not be knowledgeable about how prevalent the problem of drug addiction really is. As an educator it is my responsibility and my great honor to help you people grow, learn and develop. This important topic provides such an opportunity.”

Mayer did concede that many parents were offended by the assignment. 

"Unfortunately, though its intentions were good, an assignment related to this topic missed the mark for some families. For that, I apologize. In the future, more thought and care will be given to ensure that all assignments lead to their intended outcomes, in this case, relevant, honest and open conversations about addiction." 

The school announced that it will be partnering with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to hold a public forum about drug "threats" and trends among students in January. Mayer hopes that the forum will help show parents that it’s important for kids—even in 6th grade—to be speaking openly about drugs and addiction. 

"Sometimes, when they get to high school, it can be too late," he told Delaware Online. “People have no idea.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.