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Ask Your State Legislators to Allow Students in Your State to Opt-Out of Dissection

Ask Your State Legislators to Allow Students in Your State to Opt-Out of Dissection 

Name: Introduction of Student Choice Bills for 2019

NAVS has, as part of its CHOICE (Compassionate Humane Options in Classroom Education) initiative, sent letters to legi slators in states that do not currently have a statewide law or policy asking that students in grades K-12 be guaranteed the right to opt-out of dissection and be able to use an alternative instead of dissecting an animal in the classroom.

There are many reasons that NAVS strongly supports the passage of statewide student choice laws and policies. The primary one is that students should be able to receive a humane education and spare animal lives used for dissection. 

This year, NAVS will continue to promote CHOICE legislation, but legislators prefer to hear requests from their constituents rather than from advocacy groups.

Your legislators want to know that you support this effort and that you are asking for this change. If your state does not already have a state law or policy guaranteeing students the right to opt-out of dissection, please ask your legislators to introduce a bill in your state in the 2019 session.


Call to Actions:  

  1. Please contact your state Senator and Representative and urge them to support this important piece of legislation.
  2. Spread the word! Share this page with your social network.



  • Your State Senator or Senators
  • Your State Representative or Representatives


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Please sponsor a bill giving students a choice about dissection

Dear [Decision Maker],

I am writing to ask you to support humane education in the classroom by introducing a bill in 2019 that will give students the right to choose to use an alternative to animal dissection exercises.

While some school districts and individual schools have policies in place to permit students to opt out of dissection (and, in some cases, take part in an alternative project) without any penalty in grade, other schools do not have any such provision in place. A uniform law that sets a clear policy for students, teachers and administrators is essential in accommodating students interested in humane science as part of their education.

Laws or statewide policies have been adopted in 16 states since 1988. Since then, many widely-available non-animal teaching methods have been recognized as being more effective and less expensive than traditional animal dissection. In a recent article published in the journal, The American Biology Teacher, a survey showed that a majority of teachers have an interest in using alternatives, and over a third of biology students preferred the use of alternatives over animal specimens.

In a 2017 "Newsweek" article, the cruelty to the animals used for dissection is exposed, highlighting another reason why schools should move away from dissecting animals in the classroom.

Please consider taking the lead in introducing legislation that guarantees students in our state the right to a cost effective, modern and humane education.

A model law is provided for your convenience, below.

Model Law/Policy: Student's Informed Consent to Decline Participation in Dissection

Sec. 1. Purpose

In order to respect each student's ethical and/or religious position regarding the humane treatment of animals, increase learning levels, and lower educational costs, this act requires schools to develop a written policy to give students the ability to choose an alternative to dissecting animals in the classroom.

Sec. 2. Definitions

For the purposes of this act, unless the context otherwise requires:

(a) "Student" means a public or nonpublic school pupil enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12, any 2 or 4-year undergraduate program, or any technical training program.

(b) "School" means a public or nonpublic facility for students in kindergarten through grade 12, a 2 or 4-year undergraduate program, or any technical training program.

(c) "Animal" means any living organism, including, but not limited to, frogs, cats, fetal pigs, and earthworms, including an animal's cadaver or severed parts thereof.

(d) "Alternative education project" means the use of video equipment, models, films, books, photos, pictures, computers, live observation in the wild or in zoos, or any other tools which provide an alternative method to learning about a particular animal's physiology, life cycle or other information required by a course of study in place of dissection.

(e) "Course of study" means required or elective coursework offered by a public or nonpublic school to students in kindergarten through grade 12, a 2 or 4-year undergraduate program, or any technical training program.

(f) "Student choice policy" means a written policy provided to teachers, parents and students that states that student requests to use an alternative to dissection shall be respected without any penalty to the student.

(g) "Teacher" means a person who is teaching at a public or nonpublic school or undergraduate institution, regardless of whether that teaching is on a full-time or part-time, temporary or permanent, basis.

Sec. 3. Student use of alternatives to animal dissection

The state Board of Education shall direct each school or school district to develop a written student choice policy to permit students to be allowed to use non-animal alternatives in the classroom instead of dissecting animals or animal specimens. The policy shall include the following provisions:

(a) A student may decline to participate in or observe, wholly or in part, any of the following as part of a course of study: dissection, vivisection, incubation, infliction of harm, capture, or destruction of an animal. A student may also decline to participate in or observe any part of surgery, other invasive procedures or experiments performed on an animal, or any termination of life.

(b) A student who exercises his or her right of refusal under this section must be given a suitable alternative education project designed to provide the student with the factual knowledge, information, or experience required by the course of study.

(c) If a test requires the use of dissection or dissected specimens, students shall be offered an alternative test that does not use such specimens.

(d) A student may not be penalized or discriminated against, with regard to grade, removal from class, or otherwise, for refusing to participate in or observe any activities outlined in 3 (a). Any alternative education project assigned must require no more time and effort than the activity that the student has declined and a comparable grading method must be used to assess the alternative project.

(e) Each school shall notify students, in writing, of the existence of this policy, incorporating it in the description of all classes that plan to use dissection as a teaching tool. Each teacher shall also notify students in a biology or life science classroom of the policy:

(i) at the beginning of each semester or quarter that a student choice policy allows them to use an alternative to dissection; and

(ii) not less than three weeks prior to any scheduled course exercise involving animals that all students have the right to refuse to take part in those activities outlined in the policy.

(f) A student must be given the opportunity to decline participation or observation of the animal-related activity on the day the activity is scheduled.

(g) Each school shall develop a policy and notify affected teachers of the existence of the policy to ensure that students' beliefs are respected. Training in the use of alternative methods is recommended, though not required.

(h) This act would provide for severability of invalid provisions, if any.

Thank you for your consideration of this important legislative matter.

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]