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Is this 5-year-old’s homework offensive? Mom says yes

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fatUNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. — It was the first time Whitney Smith had ever ordered her daughter not to do her homework.

“I told her not to finish; I don’t want her looking at it,” Smith said Wednesday night.

Her 5-year-old daughter, Saylor Smith, came home from University Place Primary on Tuesday with homework involving word/picture association.

The word “fat” is on the assignment, along with cartoon-like drawings of people with different body types. Children are to circle the word if it fits the picture; to cross out the word if it doesn’t.

And that is a big problem for the mother.

“My mouth dropped,” Smith said. “I was blown away. I couldn’t believe that they would want my kids to pick out the difference between a bigger person compared to a smaller person.”

Smith said she went to the school Wednesday with the homework in hand and expressed her concern to a receptionist at the school.

“She told me it was a descriptive word,” Smith said. “She goes, ‘I  think you are taking it the wrong way. The person that made the workbook probably didn’t mean it in that manner’.”

Some folks in the neighborhood were asked what they thought of the homework.

“That’s not a problem. I don’t see anything wrong with it,” said Thomas Murphy-Montgomery. “Whether you are 5, 10, 15 or 20 years old you are going to associate fat with fat.”

On the other hand, resident Thomas Stokes said, “I think it is very offensive. You shouldn’t teach your children on how to discriminate on people as far as weight and height.”

“I don’t think it’s too far; it’s a picture and it defines what it means,” said fellow resident Monica Sot.

Sot suggested the school next time should use a picture of an animal instead of a person.

But as far as Smith is concerned, the word “fat” should never have been on the assignment and said it can have damaging effects on young kids.

“People are being bullied, and especially kid,s and that is why kids have eating disorders because people are going around saying that person is fat,” Smith said. “I never want her to come home and say, Mom,  that kid said I was fat today.”

The University Place School District said the superintendent would look into the matter and comment on it Thursday.

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62 comments

  • Rainy In Seattle

    Now, that is a fine example of taking censorship too far.
    Yes, there are the words 'fat' and 'slim', as there are the words 'black' and 'white'. Only words put in intentional offensive context are inappropriate. Or maybe piano teachers should be required to describe the keys in different terms next?

      • Rainy In Seattle

        Haha, got me there :)
        I actually did spend time wondering about the relevance of the comparison. Still, I uphold that the different proportions of the human body are the best way to show the difference. What I also claim is that it should not matter; if we show a fat cow and a slim cow, people are not offended. Yet, THEY CHOOSE to be offended by the picture of a fat person.

  • Dan Avondoglio

    Is this really news? C'mon. First of all, what does it say about our society that we are providing air-time to fat people who are upset about educating our children on the definition of the word "fat?" The dictionary defines the word "fat" as an adjective: "1. having too much flabby tissue; corpulent; obese: a fat person." The homework assignment displayed three people, only one of which could be described as fat. Lastly, I find it offensive that this mother of two daughters is an obviously poor role model for her children. With our country facing an obesity epidemic with our youth, I would hope that this mother would take not only better care of her children teaching them positive lessons about exercise and nutrition, but also exercising herself in order to reduce her own current level of obesity.

    • Shan

      I guess i am the world worst parent then? Because when your kid calls my kid fat, and my kid calls your kid a skinny, evil, bitch. Your kid will push my kid. My kid will break your kids nose. Like it or not a war of words always escalates to a war of fists. It has been that way since the beginning of time. So for many parents who complain about over censorship and political correctness being over killed. remember all this is aimed to prevent that escalation of words, To violence. I prefer to teach my child my dads rule " you never start the fight but you always finish it!"

  • nicole

    i totally agree with her. shes right about the affects it can have on kids. some might not think its a big deal cause its just a word but words hurt.

    • Chael

      Kids can be taught not to judge a person by the shape of their body. But the shape of a body IS DESCRIPTIVE! Calling someone black, white, brown, tanned, blonde, brunette, or redhead is DESCRIPTIVE! If you don't like being described as fat….THEN DON'T BE FAT!

  • Nancy Hamilton

    I believe that the teaching objective for the worksheet is provide children practice recognizing and read word patterns, such as "at, cat, bat, fat." I doubt that the teaching objective is not to teach the definition of fat! It appears that the worksheet is probably from a Reading Mastery program, a well-known yet older program. The school probably has suffered budget cuts and they are relying upon using older materials.

  • Nancy Hamilton

    Nancy…sorry for the typos! I meant to type, "I doubt that the taching objective is to teach the definition of fat. Instead, the point is for the child to practice reading word families (at, cat, bat, fat, etc.). It just happens that the materials used are older and not as 'politically correct'".

    • Jordan

      If you looked for two seconds at the worksheet, it CLEARLY is an assignment which has the intention of teaching word definitions, not reading "word families".

  • Kym

    Nancy, good point. I was thinking the same thing– the materials look like something that would have been from the early 80's when I was in school.

  • Kym

    The entire point was that you shouldn't start teaching kids to see people so differently at such an early age… so they don't grow up to be an insensitive jerks. No one called her daughter fat. Just YOU.

  • anonymous

    It has nothing to do with the little girl who was doing the homework! It has to do with the way people judge others, its not right and that is what she is taking her kids to not put labels on others. All of you who are making rude comments need to grow up and look in the mirror. Don't judge others that is the point!

  • Caitlyn

    I kinda agree and I kinda disagree. I disagree because kids need to learn how to describe things, people and places. If a child was kidnapped and was found but had to describe what that person looked like then it could be hard for that child to tell what slim and fat are. Or tall or short. But I agree because fat has a negative meaning. It could teach kids to discriminate against bigger people. And some people may not know this but sometimes it is not their fault that they are bigger. My dad was average build up until his back surgery and then it was all downhill from there. He physically can not go out and walk. Sure hes tried weight loss programs and stuff but he has a problem managing that with his illnesses. It messes with his blood and his diabetes. I hate it when people stare at him…hes a great guy once you get to know him..looks are not everything. Next time maybe they should use the word "Big" or something like that and not put a person on there…just put an animal on it. These days kids are getting more self conscious about themselves. It's sad to see that younger kids are looking at themselves and hating what they look like.

    • Jordan

      Good god…. If someone is fat, they're fat! Maybe if we all continue to practice denial, then we can finally achieve a 100% obesity rate in this country! (more than 1/3 of adult Americans are considered "obese" already!)

      Would you prefer to just eliminate the word "fat" from the English language because it might offend someone? Give me a break!

  • Anonymous

    Fat is fat, regardless of what you use as an example. A person or an animal can be fat. If the parent feels there is a reason to discuss the word with their child then they should be THE PARENT and discuss the proper times to use that word. The way the parent ran to the school to cry about what elementary word her child was exposed to is a sign of just how far some people have stepped away from being a parent. Don't rely on the world shielding your child from things they will hear or see but give them the tools to understand what it is they heard or saw and when, if any, is an acceptable time to do or say those things. Come on, this is 2013 and it seems like the parenting skills of the past have been lost to a huge percent of our country. Be your child's parent and teach them by example.

  • tnt02

    I totally agree that this is absolutely wrong!

    One stated that "society teaches" this to children, and regardless what society teaches children, this is not something that should come from "educational materials" for our children. Society is either against bullying or not against bullying, and this is a form that teaches children to bully against lifestyle/health variations. People should not be considered fat by not appearing as "healthy," just as those individuals that are not physically appearing handicap and yet are. I am yet one, a single Mother to a fantastic little angel and I push hard every single day to strive for better. On the other hand, no assistance has been given, taken or offered. I am facing possible homelessness with the economy issues, injury, and zero public assistance without becoming an addition to a shelter. I am not on SSI, SSDI, or anything one chooses to throw my way. Nobody knows nor do they understand, that I myself have a work injury (SI Joint, Bulging Disc with tear, knee complications…) that really restricts the long lines, the far parking spaces at businesses, the body that changes because of whatever the case or illness may be, and the daily life for one to stand absolutely alone. I have also been diagnosed with epiploic appendicitis and with this my stomach has grown to appear six months or more pregnant. I am not pregnant! However, there are those judgmental people that are quick/ready to jump on something that they have zero resources to back up their opinions. Are we teaching positive ethics and educational resources to the children of our future? This just may be one topic that comes about on the news (big or skinny), but there are several more that go unheard… just as any other complaint by customers that choose to express or choose to just walk away. It takes nerve to stand up and make a stance, commitment, and tell an inspired story to ears that are unwilling to hear.
    This topic of "fat" and "skinny" doesn't even need to be referenced as already "society" does this. (as the gentleman stated in the news) Society has the boldness of this already, yes, and that doesn't give reason to support this material for educational purpose considering what should be positive influences to our children. Fat is unnecessary just as skinny is to those that end up anorexic. There is a such thing to reference as "big" to "small" as in variation to size with everything. Why does big and small need to be turned into fat or skinny? I cannot even rationally compare one thing that needs that reference as fat or skinny.

  • tnt02

    What I can add could be that the Mother may decide to think it over as crossing things out with a black permanent marker if she feels so strongly about something instead of having her daughter not completing the homework assignment. The young child has already seen her paper, the references and is being subjected to it either way. The only way to really move forward in a positive direction is to make a note to the teacher, principle, school board, and as you see here with the news for all parents to be aware or conscientious and involved about what their children are expected to complete as homework assignments. It is about being proactive and understanding where bullying, unhealthy diets (many variations), and the focus point of where their children are learning from.

  • John

    "Smith said she went to the school Wednesday with the homework in hand and expressed her concern to a receptionist at the school."

    Clearly she was so disturbed by the situation that she took it up with the teacher. No, no… she went right to the key decision-maker and curriculum developer in the school. Wait, no… she went to the principal to make sure no student ever would be "damaged" ever again by having to learn the meaning of the word, "fat". No, she went to the receptionist. Please.

    "“People are being bullied, and especially kids and that is why kids have eating disorders because people are going around saying that person is fat,” Smith said. “I never want her to come home and say, Mom, that kid said I was fat today.""

    Yes, we'd rather have our kids come home asking, "Mommy, what is 'fat'? 'Cause someone called me that today," and having to explain it to them then. No wonder our kids are behind in education. We spend our time and energy policing the teachers instead of letting them teach. Fat is a word. It has meaning. It's part of language. If you have an issue… the YOU explain it to YOUR child in YOUR way. But don't tie up my principal, my school board, my teacher… all of whom I pay to educate my kids… with your entitlement-driven demand for political correctness from your point of view. I want my child to learn. Let the teachers teach.

  • UP resident

    Words don't hurt as much as childhood obesity. I'm still working my ass off to get to a healthy weight.

    This is my neighborhood, and when I hear the kids talk to each other, it's not bullying about being fat, or being a different skin color. It's just kids playing.

  • Denise Smith

    What a caring mom. I applaud her efforts to bring this to the schools attention. I for one am sick of people who want us all to be seen as equal but when someone points out an error in judgement on the part of the school system they jump on their soap box to gang up on that person. Whitney Smith is an example of a good mom.

  • guest

    Denise, I beg to differ. A good mom would teach their child about life instead of trying to make life conform around them. The only thing this child is going to learn is that if you don't want to do your homework, (or whatever your boss on the job tells you to do) (or what your parents tell you to do) etc. etc. just raise a stink about it and say it's not fair or discriminates or whatever.

    • anonymous

      When something is not right then you take a stand! Thats what this mother did! Plain and simple it was not right. If the picture was fat on a steak or something it would have gone over better the school should have realized that the homework was inappropriate.

    • anonymous

      Wow really how old are you! Hope you don't have kids cuz youre not teaching them the right things. Treat others how you want to be treated!

      • Jordan

        "Teaching them the right things"? How about teaching your 5 year old what a healthy lifestyle looks like? That poor little girl is well on her way to joining 37% of America who are obese.

        Sounds like the mom has a guilty conscience about what she's doing to her child and can't bear to have anyone point it out, be it directly or from something as ridiculous as a simple and perfectly acceptable homework assignment.

        • Denise Smith

          Boy….I think that child is lovely and looks perfect…obviously you took your mean pills this morning…might San’a cut back on your dowager.

  • A Mother

    A lot of the people that have negative things to say and want to say the mother is fat and the daughter is fat its people just like you who make this world the way it is. Who are you to judge and to down people? Honestly it makes me sick that people think its ok to judge make fun of or label people. PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE your missing the point it is that there are plenty of other descriptive words pictures to use than people and words like FAT. Whether your big,small,short or tall, black,white,hispanic, oriental, ect, gay straight or bi-, special needs or have a medical condition, WERE ALL HUMAN and shouldnt have labels. It is the descriptive words like fat that gives people a complex. Just like telling all the people that have rude comments that they are ignorant and close minded and they are the reason why their children are cruel and mean to other children, you should give yourself a pat on the back for allowing your kids to label individuals. And anyone who knows this parent knows that she has the best intentions for her child and shes not sheltering her, shes teaching her that putting labels on people isnt right and you shouldnt judge anyone by their looks.

    • Jordan

      Fine. Next time, they should use the word "obese", because that's the medical definition of what most people associate with "fat", and it's a serious health concern. That poor 5-yr old is part of a childhood obesity epidemic that is sweeping the country. The mother and everyone who supports her position are the ones who are irresponsible, ignorant and closed-minded if you can't see that.

    • BettyB

      Anyone who knows this parent also knows that she was one of the biggest offenders of labeling and bullying throughout grade school and middle school. I don't know, maybe she's learned her lesson and is trying to teach her own children not to be the mean spirited bully she was, but I don't think that supporting and encourging their unhealthy life style is the way to do it.

  • Kendra

    Wow, so many ignorant people completely proving Whitney point. How dare some of you make comments about not only her child’s weight but her own.. Whitney has been changing her mind and body for years and looks fantastic! One who is lucky enough to know her personally would know how far she has come and the weight she has lost! Her children see this transformation which is the ULTIMATE display of parenting by leading by example! So to assume she needs to diet you are reiterating the whole point of associating labels to people when you know nothing about them.

    • BettyB

      Actually, ignorance is a parent who invites the local television station into her living room and parades her children in front of the camera to say "sending them home with homework to learn to associate the word "fat" to a picture of someone who is "fat" is WRONG, because NOW everyone at school is going to associate the word "fat" to me. NOT the fact that my mommy just paraded me in front of the camera that was invited into my living room to tell the world that labeling me FAT is wrong. Really?

  • hill of beans

    This story was followed,this am, by a story of a kid in MA, who wrestled,did this that and the other activity,whose parent received a notice from the school that his body mass was high,being obese. Wow, what a difference of one part of the country to another.

  • Ayrial

    Parents are ridiculous sometimes. I have always been overweight and as a child was morbidly obese… I heard the word fat PLENTY at school… who cares? I lived. If I hadn't learned to deal with crap when I was a kid I'd never survive as an adult. People need to stop being so frickin PC and just chill the F out. The world is going downhill and oversensativity is a big part of the problem… the world is too busy being offended and filing lawsuits to raise and educate our children to be strong, functioning adults.

  • Sara

    I don't think any of you people who are saying its okay understand. Children shouldn't be taught that calling someone fat is okay. It's not okay. Children are growing up to be snobs and walk all over there parents. We all see what kids are these days. I never was taught the word fat in my homework. Kids should have nicer words in homework, and avoid the conflict all together.

    • BettyB

      The precious little girl "Saylor" obviously doesn't agree with you or with her mom. She has shown the most maturity and the most common sense throughout this whole ridiculous conversation. Maybe the adults, mom included, should take a lesson from Saylor and not try to pollute her unbiased and uncorrupted views of society. Views that are based on your experiences and not her own.

      Saylor: “She told me it was a descriptive word,” Smith said. “She goes, ‘I think you are taking it the wrong way. The person that made the workbook probably didn’t mean it in that manner’.”

    • Warren

      Sara, knock it off. I am tired of all this politcal correct, spare everyone's feelings crap. Fat, trim, chubby, slim, hefty, skinny and so on are all ways to describe people.

      I can see a cop getting angry with Sara, when she tries to describe a mugger. Life is life, the truth the truth. If people cannot handle the truth, it sucks to be them.

  • Dutch

    I think Thomas Stokes should have paid more attention in class so that he would know the difference between "differentiate" and "discriminate"

  • tom

    No matter what Mom thinks the child already knows this term and is most likely not so judgmental with the use. If a person is fat, they are fat not some other state.

  • hill of beans

    Kids these days having lack of respect has to do with learning fat and skinny? Why avoid conflict? Avoiding conflict,how do you teach respect? Lack of respect is taught everywhere,taught as humor on tv,anywhere else you can think of. Learning fat and skinny is the least of anyone's problems. It will not teach lack of respect.The kids might talk about the lesson for a while then will move on to something else.The parent should parent. Don't live in a perfect bubble world,it doesn't work.

  • Karyk

    Yes word hurt but not because of the meaning but because of how they are used, the word means what it means, If you teach your children the word fat and tell them that it is a not to be used in a negative way, just like any other word it has various usages, if you are loaded with money it meas you are a fat cat, word are words, and even it you used animals in the picture one fat one skinny it still means some one or something that is bigger is FAT, meaning is all the school is going for, PLEASE stop making the teachers job more stressful…..

  • Not offended

    It's not discrimination… it's fact…. a fat person is fat…. a skinny person is skinny. This is not teaching discrimination at all. Discrimination would be if the teacher says it's wrong to be fat or to be skinny. The child is 5 YEARS OLD. They don't discriminate, they don't know the meaning of the word. If you don't learn differences you can't respect differences. Teach tolerance and respect, not fear and offensiveness. (is that even a word? LOL)

  • Dat Dude

    If they're going to put a fat person on there for word association they should put a skinny person there too…And its the parent's job to tell the child not to call his or her peers fat or skinny but it is a form of description.

  • ARTR

    I'm overweight and I don't find it offensive. It is a single word, it is a descriptive (and quite accurate) word. Although, as a parent, I would have a discussion with my daughter/son on how that word could hurt someones feelings. I would not make a big stink with the school.

  • ARTR

    Oh and while we are at it. Let's just get rid of all the words in the English language in the hopes of NEVER offending anyone. That's what it is going to come down to at the rate we are going.

  • Supertrooper

    -Insert sarcasm-

    Obviously, we need to ban the word "fat" from the English language. Evidently, it is way too offensive in todays society.

    Isn't this the new in thing? I mean Moochelle Obummer is out telling us we need to be worried about obesity. The New York mayor is banning sodas, salt and trans fat etc. and he's not the only one. It's been an epidemic (banning fattening things) all over the US. This teacher/school is just catching up with the new in thing. I don't understand what all the fuss is about. Obviously, kids don't need to learn how to spell words so offensive as this.

    -end sarcasm-

  • WALLACE

    Whether kids knowingly use descrimanative terms loosly or not is not the point. First there is a war on childhood obesity, then they put a calorie count on fast food, now they are giving our children subliminal messages through their homework! Not cool. I think they did studies and thought this may be a more subtle way to fight this so called war. SCHOOLS ARE SUPPOSE TO TEACH, NOT PLAY MENTAL GAMES WITH OUR CHILDREN.
    Just a thought,
    Wallace Pruitt III

    P.S.I do work out have a six pack…….
    and my son goes to this A+ school, SMH

    • anonymous

      Omg look at the reason the mom did this! It has nothing to do with this family it has to do with the inappropriate choices that were put on the homework.

  • Warren

    This is the most insane thing ever. This should not have made it to the media. The mother should have been told by the school, "This is the homework, and everyone does it." End of story. Next thing this mother will be suiing the school for emotional trauma.

  • Ed Dose

    Fat is a description. As is White, as is Black, as is Chinese or Blue or green or tall or short or what ever else. Get over yourselves. This is why we have f'd up kids! Because of people like you who are too sensitive to be called fat when that's what you are. I am tall and dark… you dont hear me complaining and crying because someone called me tall white boy with a dark complexion. Holy crap people. You are diversifying yourselves into oblivion. Get over it. Don't you have more important things to do, like disciplining your little brat kid instead of letting the teachers do all the work and then complain how they do it? "I would rather you just said thank you and go on your merry way." Grow up. Fat is fat like skinny is skinny and tall is tall. Pretty soon you'll be complaining that someone called you a woman or man. Human or Earthling. Find something else to complain about… like the fact that people like you are running this country into the ground.

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