A head teacher has apologised after children at her elementary school received homework referring to Native American as the "red race" and "red men".

Parents and children at Stonegate Elementary School were distressed to find a 20-question English exercise that included sentences using phrases with colonial overtones.

Three of the statements, which 3rd graders were asked to put a full-stop after, drew criticism.

They were: "Indians belong to the red race", "Their skin is of a copper color" and "The red men's name for corn was maize."

Superintendent Linda Luna told KCRA she felt a "kick in the gut" when she got wind of the assignment after a parent texted her to complain.

"As an Asian woman, if someone said I had yellow skin, or that I was a yellow person, it is that same level of emotion," Luna said.

"I'm very sorry that your children received an assignment that does not show value to people," she added, in a direct appeal to parents.

The head teacher made it clear that the assignment was not part of the Sacramento school district's curriculum, which has no place for racial insensitivities or slurs.

She said millions of dollars had recently been poured into revamping the syllabus, so there was no conceivable reason why a teacher might want to depart from it.

"It is not part of our curriculum. We do not condone this kind of assignment and we do not want this existing in our school district," she said.

red skin racist homework
A few of the homework questions have been called racist KCRA screengrab
red skin racist homework
Stonegate Elementary School, Sacremento Google maps

The school said it had spoken with the teacher who had issued the homework and that she had apologised profusely. She is also planning to send a letter of apology to the parents of the children that received the homework.

Speaking at the school gate, parent Dawn Pederson told KCRA of her shock at the homework: "They're very offensive [statements]. I would never refer to a human being as the 'red man' or 'red people'. That's just unthinkable," she said.