After a teacher came under criticism for showing graphic depictions of abortion during a middle school class on sexual education Tuesday, debate has erupted about whether the video was appropriate and if California laws allow for such instruction to continue.
The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) defended Sutter Middle School teacher Jenny Thomas, who showed the students videos showing abortion at various stages. The videos were narrated by former abortion doctor turned pro-life activist Anthony Levatino, The Sacramento Bee reported. PJI is a “legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties,” according to its website.
“We want to make sure that she is given a fair process,” PJI senior staff attorney Matthew McReynolds said Thursday, according to The Modesto Bee. “That she’s not punished differently from a teacher who shows a disturbing video like ‘Schindler’s List’ in history class, for example.”
“Our concern is that the investigation might be tainted by a desire to shield the students from unpleasant facts,” McReynolds continued, explaining that the district may punish the teacher more harshly because she exposed the details of an abortion procedure.
The debate comes after students from Sutter Middle School told their parents what they’d seen, after which the Sacramento City Unified School District launched an investigation to identify exactly what the teacher has espoused in the classroom in response.
The videos are “completely inappropriate for the classroom,” school district spokesman Alex Barrios said Tuesday, The Sacramento Bee reported. He said the classroom material had clearly failed to “meet the district’s approved family life and sexuality curriculum,” and that the district will seriously address the matter. (RELATED: Teacher Shows Videos Of Abortion, Now The School Isn’t Happy About It)
California law and the district’s policies, however, support teaching material that challenges students. “Students should have opportunities to discuss controversial issues which have political, social or economic significance and which the students are mature enough to investigate and address,” the district governing board policy states. Sex education classes should “help students understand the biological, psychological, social, moral and ethical aspects of human sexuality,” the policy states. (RELATED: Meet The Man Who’s Trying To Stop Oregon From Funding Abortions)
“These issues must be presented in an unbiased way, to avoid shaming or stigmatizing students who have faced these issues or may face them in the future,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California reproductive justice policy director Phyllida Burlingame, The Modesto Bee reported.
The district will continue its investigation to determine whether the videos were inappropriate and whether they will be shown in future sex-ed classes. The district will also make sure parents are aware of what controversial material their children learn in school before it is taught.
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