I just got off the phone with Troy Morrison, a parent of two eighth-graders at Oak Grove Middle School in Dulzura, in East County. Morrison and his family lost their home when the Harris Fire consumed their community. He said the family is currently living in a hotel.

Troy said his children and other children at the school have been struggling because the school district has not reduced the amount of homework they have to complete, despite their current circumstances. Many of the students are living in hotels or trailers, Troy said, and the school district should recognize that by reducing their workload.

He said he expects a lot of parents to show up at a school board meeting tonight to complain about the toll homework is taking on their children.

Morrison also told me that on their first day back to school after the wildfires consumed their home and most of their possessions, his son and daughter, 14-year-old Marissa Morrison and 12-year-old Justin Morrison were given assignments that didn’t sit too well with them: Justin was asked in an art class to paint a picture of firefighters saving his home. Marissa was asked to write a thank-you letter to the local firefighters.

Marissa refused, Troy Morrison told me. She’s been around firefighting all her life, he said, and she knows it wasn’t the firefighters’ fault that their home burned. Troy is a former volunteer firefighter. Still, Troy said, she didn’t feel comfortable writing a thank-you note for something that didn’t happen, so she refused to complete the assignment.

Troy said his daughter’s teacher told her she didn’t have a choice.

“They literally told her ‘You will do the assignment,’” Troy said.

Meanwhile, in an arts class, Justin Morrison was asked to paint a picture of the firefighters saving his house, Troy told me. Again, his son refused, Troy said, but was again “forced” to complete the assignment. Troy said his son painted the burned-out shell of a home instead.

When Troy heard about the assignments and the actions of the teachers, he said, he was outraged. He called the school’s principal and told her he wanted to meet up. Then he went and met with the principal, who was very sympathetic and apologetic, he said. Troy asked the principal to get the teachers to write letters of apology to his children.

But now, a few days later, Troy said he’s still waiting for those letters. He’s also contacted the head of the local school district, he said, and he plans to air his complaints at the meeting at the school tonight.

“If the teachers aren’t with it enough to hold it together for the students, they shouldn’t be there,” Troy said.


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