OTTAWA -- The parents of a Grade 10 student at a Carleton Place high school are angry after their daughter told them her homework assignment was to write a suicide note.
The girl, a student at Notre Dame High School, is part of a class studying The Chrysalids -- a 1955 post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel set in rural Labrador.
In one section of the book a character kills herself because her newborn child will be deemed a mutant by society.
In the story, set in the future, the pioneer-like Labradorians know very little of the "Old People," a technologically advanced civilization which existed long ago and which they believe was destroyed when God sent "Tribulation" to the world to punish their forebears' sins.
As a result, the inhabitants practice a form of fundamentalist Christianity whereby they must create and maintain absolute normality among all living things. Humans with even minor mutations are considered "blasphemies" and the handiwork of the devil.
These people are either killed or sterilized and banished.
One of the characters is Aunt Harriet. She's had three mutated babies and asks for help from her sister Emily to create a fraudulent certificate of normalcy for her surviving third child. Emily refuses to substitute her baby for the certificate, so Harriet commits suicide.
Students were asked to write what Harriet's suicide note, as they imagine it, would have read.
The parents who contacted QMI Agency, did so on the condition neither they nor their daughter be identified.
They haven't formally made a complaint to the school, either.
Principal David Chaplin said he will investigate the accusation Monday but is not prepared to comment.
He said these types of comments typically come from the school board.
"I don't know what the assignment is," he said. "I have to wait until I see the assignment."
Chaplin said it is not uncommon for students to misinterpret what they're asked.
But the parents are pretty certain their daughter is clear on what was asked. They're concerned -- not so much for her -- but for any other students in the class of 14 to 15-year-olds, who may have a hard time dealing with suicide.
"How would you feel if your son or daughter was going to counselling, just starting to turn a corner and get better and then they are given an assignment that forces them to look directly at it?" the parent asked.
"Thanks to this assignment they now hear it talked about during the day? Weeks, months, years of therapy can be undone in a second. Ten years ago, I think this would have been a risky assignment, but if done properly, it could be for the good. Today, I think it is very irresponsible and dangerous, and has the potential to do more harm than good."