- In March, a New York City public-school teacher stirred controversy when she showed her class of fifth-grade students an anti-abortion video from an event organized by a conservative Pentecostal church collective.
- Several parents told the New York Daily News that the video disturbed their children.
- This week, the Daily News reported that the school’s principal told parents she would step down in August.
- The New York City Department of Education confirmed the principal’s resignation to the Daily News.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
Four months after a New York City public-school teacher stirred controversy for showing fifth-graders a provocative anti-abortion video, the school’s principal has said she will step down, the New York Daily News reported.
The Daily News said it saw screenshots from parents of an announcement made at a parent-teacher forum that Iris Chiu, the principal of PS 184, or the Shuang Wen School, would leave in August.
The Shuang Wen School did not comment to INSIDER on Chiu’s resignation and did not respond to follow-up questions about the controversy.
In a statement to the Daily News, the New York City Department of Education confirmed Chiu’s resignation and thanked her for her service.
The controversy started in April, when the Daily News reported that an art teacher at the school, Ju Ling Wei, had shown her fifth-grade class a disturbing and factually inaccurate anti-abortion video.
The bizarre, nearly five-minute video begins with seven children – all appearing to be around high-school age – lined up, each wearing a gray shirt and black pants. What follows is a mix of slam poetry, theater, and religious activism centered on an unborn fetus attempting to shout out to its pregnant mother.
“Hi, Mommy!” the children say. “Mom! I’m here! I’m only three-fourths of an inch long!”
For several minutes, they trade lines following the fetus’ development. Around the three-minute mark, the fictional fetus lashes out at the mother when it realizes she intends to have an abortion.
An 11-year-old student in the class told the Daily News that after the video ended, Wei asked them if they knew what an abortion was and then said it’s when a doctor gives “a shot to kill the baby.”
The student recalled the children in the video saying “It burns, Mommy! It burns!” as they simulated an abortion.
The student said that when she went home, she asked her father about abortion. Her father, Ishmael Alvarado, told the Daily News he was upset and that the family hadn’t been prepared to have that conversation yet.
“My kids still believe in Santa Claus,” Alvarado told the Daily News. ‘They’re still innocent.”
Under the First Amendment, US public schools are prohibited from promoting a particular religion. For Alvarado, showing the video blurred the line.
“I believe in the separation of church and state,” Alvarado said. “I’m trying to figure out what was the agenda of the teacher putting this out there in a non-sex ed class.”
In an interview with Gothamist, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Education denounced the teacher’s choice to show the video.
“We expect our teachers to practice good judgment, and there is absolutely no reason to show this video in an elementary school,” said the spokesman, Doug Cohen. “This lesson was completely inappropriate, and the principal immediately addressed this incident and reported it for investigation.”
The video, titled “2018 National Fine Arts Merit Winner – Readers Theater – Life Flight,” is from an annual event held by the youth ministry of Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal church collective that says it has 3 million American members. It has a program called Fine Arts, where students give performances with explicit Christian messaging, that it says is “designed to help students discover, develop and deploy their ministry gifts.”
Parents whose children saw the video told the Daily News they were pleased with the news of Chiu’s resignation.
“I’m happy that the principal is gone,” Alvarado said.
Liset Reyes echoed that sentiment.
Chiu “was just not doing her job,” Reyes told the Daily News “Action was taken. I’m very, very happy with the outcome.”
Chiu’s is the second principal of the school to leave as the result of controversy in seven years. In 2012, the Education Department stepped in to remove Ling Ling Chou for inaccurately reporting data such as student attendance records and the school-day length, Chalkbeat reported.