Parents already angry over an elementary school teacher showing their 10-year-old children an anti-abortion video in class are steaming again after the principal interviewed the kids about the incident and allegedly instructed them to tell no one about the chat.
The controversy began in March at Public School 184, also known as the Shuang Wen School, after dance teacher Ju Ling Wei showed her students a graphic anti-abortion video that included teenagers voicing their interpretations of a fetus’ thoughts about developing in the womb.
During an April 8 School Leadership Team meeting, school principal Iris Chiu told parents that the Department of Education barred her from apologizing for the episode because it was afraid of being sued, a tape recording of the meeting revealed.
At the meeting, she defended Wei, saying it was not the 14-year Education Department veteran’s intention to expose her 5th graders to the hot-button issue. The creepy and disturbing video features adolescents pretending to be a baby in the womb experiencing an abortion. The theatrical climax of the video comes when the fetus is going to be terminated.
On Monday, Chiu pulled students from class to question them about the incident, according to two parents who said their children were in that group.
“She took them out of the classroom, she called them out by name, she had them say they wouldn’t tell anyone,” said mom Liset Reyes, whose 10-year-old daughter Shiloh Lee Morales viewed the video in class. “The New York City Department of Education is supposed to be investigating this, and now she’s doing this. I don’t understand.”
Morales, one of four students singled out by Chiu for the Monday sit down, confirmed that the principal “told us not to tell anyone.”
“I don’t really want to be in this school anymore because of what happened,” said the 10-year-old. “It’s just uncomfortable.”
On Tuesday, her mother, Reyes, who is considering suing the city, and another parent Ishmael Alvarado confronted Chiu about the Monday meeting and said Chiu told them Education Department rules allow her to conduct an investigation into the matter and that is what she was doing.
“She said, ‘In school, I’m the parent,’” Alvarado recalled. “That hit me in the stomach.”
Alvarado’s daughter Isabella viewed the shocking video in Wei’s classroom in March. Several days after watching the nearly five-minute clip the student recited parts of it word-for-word. “'It burns, mommy! It burns,'” the 11-year-old said, recalling one particularly arresting line.
Before seeing the clip, Isabella said she didn’t know anything about abortion. “It was my first time hearing about it," she said.
When the Daily News broke the story in April, an Education Department spokesperson Doug Cohen said Wei may have been showing the video in a poorly executed attempt to illustrate dramatic technique.
“We expect our teachers to practice good judgment, and there is absolutely no reason to show this video in an elementary school," Cohen said at the time "This lesson was completely inappropriate, and the principal immediately addressed this incident and reported it for investigation.”
On Thursday, Cohen revealed that the matter essentially had been referred back to the principal.
“We have guidelines in place to investigate and address misconduct, and these conversations were part of the principal’s investigation into this completely inappropriate incident," Cohen said. "The superintendent will continue to work closely with the school to address concerns and share updates.”