A Medicine Hat mom said she was shocked when her 13-year-old daughter told her about an assignment at Alexandra junior high school that had students painting pictures of their faces in black and white and surfing “disturbing websites.”
“They took this project and personalized it by having the kids paint pictures of themselves with goth makeup,” said the Medicine Hat mom, who didn’t want to be named.
“They even had to pick their own goth name.”
On April 24, a 12-year-old Medicine Hat girl and her 23-year-old boyfriend, Jeremy Steinke, were charged with killing the girl’s parents and eight-year-old brother.
The month-old assignment was for a book the students were reading in their learning-assisted novel class. Entitled Runner, the novel relates the story of a goth character living on the streets of Calgary.
Accompanying the students’ pictures were chilling statements taken from a goth website, declaring “I’m so goth my wrists slit themselves” and “I’m so goth I keep getting hit on by necrophiliacs.”
The Medicine Hat woman said her daughter suffers from learning disabilities and is very impressionable.
While researching the assignment the girl decided she wanted to be goth, according to her mom.
“She even carved her name into her arm with a compass from her geometry set,” the woman said.
Peter McPhee, author of Runner, said the purpose of his book, about a brother who roams the streets of Calgary to find his runaway sister, was to present a dark social commentary.
“I wanted to show that going on the streets was a dead end,” McPhee said from his home in Langdon, 30 km east of Calgary.
“If my book is in any way making the goth culture look interesting to kids, then that wasn’t the point,” he said.
Alexandra principal Lauren Cooper said the purpose of the assignment was to get students interested in reading by personalizing the feelings and issues expressed in the book.
“With recent events that have occurred in Medicine Hat, this has become a sensitive issue,” he said.