LOWER MANHATTAN — A public school teacher is facing backlash after showing an anti-abortion video to her fourth and fifth grade students.
"I was confused and uncomfortable," said Isabella Alvarado. The 11-year-old tells PIX11 her dance teacher played the four-and-a-half minute video to her fifth grade class at P.S. 184, also called the Shaung Wen School.
Also posted on YouTube, the anti-abortion video is entitled "2018 National Fine Arts Merit Winner - Readers Theater - Life Flight." It shows a group of youth performing on stage, taking turns as the voice of an unborn fetus.
The video goes through months of the fetus' growth and the student performers say lines like "because of abortion, I'm now in heaven" and "that doctor is a meanie he lied to you, he called me a blob I'm not just a blob of cells I am a baby I am alive."
Isabella says after the playing the video, the teacher held a Q&A session. "Miss Julie said what did you learn about abortion?" She also had questions for her father after school pickup.
"While walking she abruptly said 'Dad what's abortion," said Ishmael Alvarado. "I was in total shock."
Shock turned into outrage. Alvarado notified his friend and fellow parent, Liset Reyes. Reyes has a daughter in the same class as Isabella. The parents learned the teacher, Julie Wei, played the video in three of her fifth grade classes and two of her fourth grade classes.
"I felt violated, I felt this is a topic I should be able to discuss with my daughter," said Reyes. "My daughter is in no way ready for this conversation, she had no idea the concept where a baby comes from we haven't touched those topics."
The teacher has been with this school since 2004 and there has been no history of disciplinary action against her. These parents want to stress this is not about being pro or anti-abortion, rather, this is about having their choice taken away from them on when and where .to have this very important discussion with their children.
"As her parent, I know she doesn't know about the birds and the bees yet," said Alvarado. "My daughter still believes in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy. Right now my daughter is asking me so many questions. This has opened up a can of worms with her and I feel like her innocence is stolen."
Both parents went online to view the video and said they were horrified by the graphic nature. "I was appalled I was really upset and I began to cry because we're talking about stage six where they're killing a baby," said Reyes. "It was very traumatizing for me so I can't imagine how traumatizing it has been for the children."
Along with other parents, they informed the principal, who was unaware the teacher played it in class. A letter to parents talked about the incident involving the video but did not go into details about the topic. They say it's not enough.
"I want some accountability this is not something we sweep under the rug," said Reyes. "Subjects to be taught are Math, English, Science, Art and nothing more than that."
The teacher is still at the school. Alvarado and Reyes say they keep their children from content on television and on the internet, but never felt they had to at school.
"They should have some sort of sensitivity training with their teachers, remind them to stick with a curriculum, not go rogue or go past that curriculum with their own personal agenda," said Alvarado. "It's totally inappropriate and they overstepped their boundaries."
The teacher, Mrs. Wei, has said she was using the video as a way to demonstrate stage presence and performance.
"This should not have been brought into the classroom your personal issues should not be brought to school," said Reyes. "I think whatever her reason was it was unacceptable."
Wei has been told by the principal not to use the video again and a guidance counselor has been made available for students who seek support.
"We're only 10 and 11, learning about stuff we shouldn't know," said Isabella.
Doug Cohen, a spokesperson for the NYC Department of Education, said in a statement: "“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.”