Fact Check

Common Core Worksheet: Ruby's Hairclip

Did a Common Core assignment force fourth graders to read and explain a text about marital infidelity?

Published Nov 6, 2014

Claim:   As part of the Common Core curriculum, fourth-grade students have been assigned a worksheet directing them to describe a woman's reaction when she discovers another woman's hairclip in her bed.


TRUE: Some students in a number of school districts were assigned the "hairclip worksheet," with an example text scenario describing marital infidelity.
FALSE: The worksheet in question was a part of the "Common Core" curriculum.

Examples:   [Collected via Facebook, November 2014]


My friend's 8 year old came home with this homework assignment. Is it just me or is this a subject that an 8 year old should not be concerned with?!

Ruby sat on the bed she shared with her husband holding a hairclip. There was something mysterious and powerful about the cheaply manufactured neon clip that she was fondling suspiciously. She didn't recognize the hairclip. It was too big to be their daughter's, and Ruby was sure that it wasn't hers. She hadn't had friends over in weeks but there was this hairclip, little and green with a few long black hair strands caught in it. Ruby ran her fingers through her own blonde hair. She had just been vacuuming when she noticed this small, bright green object under the bed. Now their life would never be the same. She would wait here until Mike returned home.

Why is Ruby so affected by the hairclip?
How has the hairclip affected Ruby's relationship?


I'm calling BS here. This has been circulating for months and the student getting this assignment keeps getting younger.

I'm guessing this is in some curriculum book bc I've seen it before. I do believe it's real and totally inappropriate. I'd love to know more about the subject and curriculum publisher. Seems there's some really crap common core curriculum out there.


Origins:   As far back as April 2011, a risqué homework assignment circulating the web sparked varying levels of outrage. The worksheet involved a woman named Ruby, her discovery of another woman's hairclip in her marital bed, and the very grown-up scenario it suggested that students were asked to describe and comment upon. The "Ruby's hairclip" sheet popped up in the news in Gilbert, Arizona, in February 2013 and again in El Paso, Texas, in April 2014.

In those instances, parents of fourth-graders at separate elementary schools lodged complaints over the worksheet, which was assigned

as part of a language arts module involving "inferences." In both schools, students were instructed to read the story about Ruby's hairclip and explain how the woman might feel and why she would react in such a manner to the discovery.

As the worksheet journeyed across the Internet, it attracted a polarizing element: Although the worksheet is real and it has been distributed in error to students in elementary schools, later iterations of the rumor wrongly identified the assignment as part of the "Common Core curriculum."

What is often referred to as the "Common Core curriculum" is actually the "Common Core State Standards Initiative," an educational initiative aimed at calibrating math and language arts standards for each K-12 grade across all 50 states. While "Common Core" has been interpreted by some as a nefarious plot to introduce sexuality, religion, or political ideals to young children, it is actually a collaborative effort between the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to establish educational consistency across states.

Since its introduction in 2010, the Common Core State Standards Initiative has prompted backlash on a number of fronts from parents, educators, and pundits. Criticisms range from the reasonable (whether learning methods prescribed by the initiative work in all cases) to the outright wacky (a claim that sixth-grade students were instructed on how to use a strap-on dildo).

The Common Core State Standards Initiative does not include sex education at any level, but the worksheet referenced above is often wrongly attributed to that educational effort. Individuals who are confused about what the standards encompass are often duped into believing the worksheet above is typical of the federal government's involvement in producing standardized educational material.

As it happens, the sheet above and its inclusion in elementary education is not a function of Common Core standards. The exercise involving "Ruby's hairclip" originated with a website popular among teachers for offering free downloadable lesson materials (including homework worksheets) and with those teachers' not following directions.

The website's creator, Donald Morton, intended the inference exercise for older students. However, some teachers did not carefully preview the material, overlooked the grade level suggestions, and assigned the sheet to younger students. Morton eventually removed the page from his site:

Though I have long defended this content, I now realize that no warning or alert can prevent this mature subject matter from falling into the hands of very small children. In the interest of making this site friendly for all readers, I have revised the content in question.


The hairclip assignment continued to circulate and wind up in the hands of elementary school students, parents continued to comment on the "inferences" page, and Morton reiterated the material was never intended for elementary school students, he had gone to lengths to ensure teachers were aware of the nature of the content, and the sheet in question had been removed from his site long ago:

Not to make light of a serious issue: I never intended the assignment to be distributed to 4th grade students.

I had a warning in bold text, a javascript alert box, and several other measures to prevent teachers and others from distributing the content without being aware of its contents, but these measures failed.

For a time I defended the content, not because of its high-quality, but based on my principles of free speech and not succumbing to censors.

This turned out to be stupid, mainly because of the goal of this site.

I am not creating an artistic product that should be defended.

I am trying to help students, teachers, and parents.

The content proved to be doing much more harm than good, and it was detracting from the otherwise noble goals of the site.

So I deleted the content.

About one year ago.

And here we are ...


So although the worksheet referencing "Ruby's hairclip" was indeed used in some elementary classrooms, the assignment was issued in error by teachers who neglected to review it before distribution. The sheet is not part of the Common Core curriculum, and Common Core does not include any sex education material whatsoever.

Last updated:   6 November 2014


    Rasta, Anoushah.

  "Pasodale Elementary Parents Question 'Inappropriate' Homework Assignment."

    KTSM.   16 April 2014.

    Webb, Brian.   "Adult-Themed Homework Sent Home from Gilbert Elementary School."

    ABC15.   13 February 2013.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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