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updated: 1/12/2011 6:05 PM

Sex ed teaching method questioned

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A Crystal Lake high school health teacher's activity designed to teach sophomore students how the female reproductive system works has caught the ire of a conservative religious group.

The Illinois Family Institute, a nonprofit ministry based in Carol Stream, posted an article on its website this week claiming Jacqulyn Levin, a health and physical education teacher at Prairie Ridge high school, taught students about female anatomy using "the Vagina Dance." The article states the dance, which the group said involved pointing to and singing about reproductive parts while prancing around the room, was set to the tune of the Hokey Pokey.

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"Her selection of this inappropriate instructional activity demonstrated a lack of empathy for those who may have a degree of modesty and self-respect that Levin does not possess," wrote Laurie Higgins, director of the Illinois Family Institute's Division of School Advocacy. "Did she consider that some students might feel uncomfortable participating in or even watching this dance and that they might fear being ridiculed if they chose to opt-out?"

School officials, however, called the characterization inaccurate.

"It is overtly misrepresentative of the activity in class," said Jeff Puma, spokesman for Crystal Lake High School District 155. "There was no music, no song and no movement around the class. The name that the report gave it is a nickname that the students have called it. It is not the name the teacher gave it."

The district's director of curriculum, Scott Kubelka, said the five-minute activity was used to reinforce information the students had previously learned through textbooks and other lessons.

"This was part of the district's approved curriculum," Kubelka said. "Certainly the district would not approve something that they thought was disrespectful."

Kubelka said the activity, which has been used in the past, was a kinesthetic way of explaining the female reproductive organs.

"It is a mnemonic device to help students memorize parts of the anatomy and function," Kubelka said.

Robert King, a parent who complained to the district and the Illinois Family Institute back in October, said his son asked to be excused from the activity but was denied.

"I am not a prudish person and I have no problem with scholastically based sex education," King said. "But the teacher used such a cavalier presentation method, and forced a student to participate when he requested to abstain from it. It is disrespectful to women and removes modesty about the reproductive parts."

Levin, who has taught in the district for seven years, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

District officials said the district would review the instruction in question, but did not say if the activity would be removed from the curriculum.

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