By Steven G. Vegh
Plastic human fetus dolls - soft, in pink and brown, and about 4 inches long - have been handed out at Oakwood Elementary School by an employee who was put on administrative leave Thursday over the situation.
The dolls, which were distributed over weeks or months, are not authorized by the division as instructional materials, spokeswoman Elizabeth Thiel Mather said Thursday. Mather said the employee will remain on leave until school officials investigate the reports.
Oakwood Principal Sheila Tillett Holas was put on leave today, Thiel Mather said. The division began its investigation after The Pilot asked school leaders this week about the fetus dolls.
The distribution of the life-like forms among grade school children shocked and repelled some parents and teachers and School Board members who discussed them in a closed meeting this week.
"It is hard to imagine that we would have an employee who believes it would be appropriate to share plastic fetus dolls with students in one of our schools," School Board Chairman Stephen Tonelson said Thursday.
An Oakwood teacher told The Pilot that the "squooshy" dolls had been given to students in the third, fourth and fifth grades over several months. The teacher, who asked for anonymity to avoid retaliation from the school for speaking out, said several parents and staff were upset.
The teacher said that attached to the dolls was a card with a "pro-life" message and information on fetal growth.
Board member Kirk Houston Sr. said he examined one of the dolls. "Very life like, and it's a pro-life tool," he said. "To be quite honest, that is so incredible to me, that a staff member would do something so ... entirely inappropriate and unacceptable." He said board members "were all pretty dumbfounded."
Board member Billy Cook said: "The administration has to look at that. That's obviously inappropriate."
An Oakwood parent said her fourth-grade daughter recounted getting one of the dolls from a school employee who handed them out to students during lunch time.
"She comes home with a fetus and says, 'Mommy, look what I got!' and I said, "Where did you get that and why?' It's disturbing to see," said the parent. She asked not to be named so that her daughter wouldn't be vulnerable to retribution at school.
The card accompanying the doll described the first 12 weeks of fetal development, she said.
"As a parent, I choose to teach my children about those things later in life," she added. "I did not sign a waiver for my daughter to be given a fetus."
Last month in New Mexico, the Roswell Independent School District stopped Christian high schoolers who distributed 3,500 plastic fetus dolls on four school campuses. The dolls were confiscated by school authorities.
In 2003, an anti-abortion Virginia legislator, Del. Richard Black of Loudoun County, outraged several state senators by sending them pink plastic fetus dolls as the General Assembly was considering bills on abortion.
Milton N. Greene, Oakwood's PTA president, said he hadn't seen the figures but that another parent told him it was not a fetus - but rather a doll used to show kids how big they are at birth.
Oakwood school manager Laurie Jones said Principal Sheila Tillett Holas declined to be interviewed.
BONUS FUCKERY! Teachers complained to the state earlier that the same principal now on admin leave about the dolls instructed them to pray with students before their SOLs and involved her church pastor.