Students get killer assignment

The Associated Press
Wednesday October 04, 2000

COVINA — Students got an unusual assignment from their English teacher: Pick out a victim, come up with a recipe for assassination and devise a successful getaway formula. 

The Covina High School teacher no longer works for the school district. 

“I was outraged,” parent Joyce Jarvis said after learning of teacher Andrew Phillips’ classroom assignment. “It went through my mind, ‘How dare he give an assignment like this in the first place?’ ” 

Phillips instructed students to write the assignment as a journal entry in conjunction with the reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Pit and the Pendulum.” 

He told them to choose someone to kill, give reasons why and detail how to keep it secret. According to his students, the only requirement was that the person to be assassinated could not be anyone at Covina High School. 

“And the first thing that hit me was Columbine and what if he has a loose end in the classroom that wants to make a name for himself and the teacher is supporting this type of action? It could be (my son) that’s shot or bombed or whatever,” Jarvis said. 

Michael Miller , superintendent of the Covina-Valley Unified School District, said without elaboration Monday: “I can tell you the teacher associated with this assignment is no longer with the school.” 

The teacher offered the class an alternative assignment for those who did not want to plot the assassination: describing eight to 10 motives for killing another human being. 

“Why should any child be forced to think about committing a murder?” said the student’s mother, who also spoke with the newspaper on condition of anonymity. 

Although district officials would not say whether Phillips was fired or quit, district assistant superintendent of personnel Louis Pappas said as far as the district was concerned, the case was closed. 


“There’s no appeal process in this particular instance for the employee, and it’s basically a done issue,” he said.