A teacher at a Lower East Side elementary school screened an evangelical, anti-abortion video for her fifth grade dance class, for reasons that are not immediately clear to angry parents.
The NY Daily News reports that Ju Ling Wei, an arts teacher who has worked at P.S. 184 (the Shuang Wen School) on Cherry Street for 14 years, showed her students a video in which a group of teens do a dramatic reading of a fetus's fancifully imagined internal monologue. The performance seems to be the work of a youth group from the Pentecostal Assembly of God Church in Smithville, Tennessee, and hits on a number of the scientifically baseless abortion tropes beloved of right-wing opponents: That a fetus is a sentient being from conception; that doctors who perform abortions routinely lie to their patients; that fetuses can feel and hear everything that goes on in the outside world from inside the womb—and from their earliest, cell-cluster days at that.
Truly, I cannot understate just how wide a gap exists between actual human biology and the narrative presented in this video, which you can watch by following that link if you feel so inclined.
People who make this brand of anti-abortion propaganda generally intend to scare their audience, or at the very least, to make the viewer feel guilty. The video reportedly had the desired effect on the classroom full of children who watched it at Shuang Wen two weeks ago. An 11-year-old student Isabella Alvarado came home asking her father what abortion is, according to the Daily News. She quoted some of the performance's more viscerally affecting moments, like when the teens-as-fetuses exclaim, "It burns, mommy! It burns!" in reaction to the pantomimed procedure. Isabella also said that Wei asked the class, after the screening, what abortion meant, before defining it as "when a doctor gives a mother 'a shot to kill the baby.'"
"I believe in the separation of church and state," Isabella's father, Ishmael Alvarado, told the Daily News. "I'm trying to figure out what was the agenda of the teacher putting this out there in a non-sex ed class."
The education department believes Wei may have showed the video in a misguided attempt to teach her students about stage presence, which doesn't explain why she allegedly asked that follow-up question about the kids' understanding of its central message. Still, the principal reportedly warned her not to use the video in her class again, then sent a letter to parents notifying them the situation and apologizing for any "confusion," according to the Daily News.
In a statement to Gothamist, Education Department spokesperson Doug Cohen said: "We expect our teachers to practice good judgment, and there is absolutely no reason to show this video in an elementary school. This lesson was completely inappropriate, and the principal immediately addressed this incident and reported it for investigation."
Shuang Wen has previously come under fire for sketchy administrative practices: The Education Department fired its former principal, Ling Ling Chou, in 2012 after an investigation suggested she had been submitting fraudulent enrollment and attendance data, among other deceptive behaviors. When reached by phone on Thursday, a school representative declined to comment on the video.