On May 21, the Virginian-Pilot broke a shocking story: since the fall, fetus dolls with explicit anti-choice messages have been handed out to third, fourth, and fifth grade students by a school employee at Oakwood Elementary School in Norfolk, Virginia. The Pilot cites a teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, describing the 4-inch-long pink and brown plastic dolls as “life-like” and accompanied by a card with an anti-choice message and information on fetal growth. The Pilot’s investigative reporter found that these dolls and their accompanying literature were given out to dozens of young students, as recently as last month. The Pilot was able to obtain an example of the fetus doll, seen below:
We agree with the points made the Virginian-Pilot’s May 22 op-ed article “Fetus doll has no place in school,” which stresses the blatant lack of respect for parental rights seen in these incidents. The editor writes that by handing out the fetus dolls and anti-choice messages, “Someone, in other words, was using a doll to try to persuade young children about one of the most volatile, complicated, and difficult issues in America…Whatever you’ve decided about abortion, it’s unlikely that you’ve decided to cede that discussion to someone at your child’s public school. Especially if nobody asked you.”
Since the story broke, the Norfolk School Board has reacted quickly. While Norfolk school officials investigate the situation, the employee in question and the Oakwood Elementary School Principal, Sheila Tillett Holas, have been placed on administrative leave.
The Pilot’s coverage of this breaking story generated hundreds of online comments, many of which expressed a troubling misunderstanding of the appropriate role of anti-choice messages in public schools. One commenter writes, “This employee stood up for what is right (the sanctity of human life) in a culture that too often supports what is wrong. This employee should be commended for a job well done, not reprimanded.” Another commenter said that the staff member who handed out the dolls and messages “was providing some truthful sex ed.” A different commenter criticized the “messed up priorities” expressed in the Virginian-Pilot’s op-ed, saying, “Our society has become so pathetic when our leaders…locally and nationally…get more upset over something like this than they do over the millions of lives that have been lost through abortion.”
However, most of the comments were in support of the Norfolk administration’s response to this incident. As one commenter wrote, “As a parent I reserve the right to discuss such weighty issues as sex, drugs, alcohol, abortion – what have you, with my child FIRST. One day my son is going to ask me tough questions and I will have to answer them as best I see fit. I hope that his questions don’t come as a result of being provoked by an adult with an overzealous agenda and a pocket full of scare tactics.”
So what are the larger implications of this incident for Virginia? As the Pilot’s op-ed states, “If there’s any good news to emerge from the distribution of the dolls, it is the alacrity with which the school division responded once the actions became public.” Through their actions and words, the Norfolk School Board and administration have shown that this incident is absolutely inappropriate, which bodes well for continued intolerance of anti-choice propaganda in our state’s public schools.
We are grateful that the Virginian-Pilot is acting as a watchdog and looking out for Commonwealth students and citizens. However, we wish that the Norfolk administration was also monitoring their district with equal attention, to ensure that all Virginians are given appropriate, unbiased, and accurate information about contraception, abortion, and reproductive rights.
For further information:
Anti-abortion fetus dolls handed out to Norfolk students: http://hamptonroads.com/2010/05/antiabortion-fetus-dolls-handed-out-norfolk-students?cid=srch
Norfolk principal put on leave over fetus dolls for students: http://hamptonroads.com/2010/05/norfolk-principal-put-leave-over-fetus-dolls-students#rfq
Fetus doll has no place in school: