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Maryland: Student Choice Legislation Reintroduced in 2019

Maryland: Student Choice Legislation Reintroduced in 2019

Name: Student Right of Refusal for Animal Dissection

Bill Number: SB 188/HB 206

As part of its CHOICE (Compassionate Humane Options in Classroom Education) initiative, NAVS continues to reach out to legislators in states that do not currently have a statewide law or policy in place that guarantees students in grades K-12 the right to use an alternative instead of dissecting an animal in the classroom. 

In Maryland, this is the fourth year that Sen. Ronald Young has introduced legislation to give all students in Maryland the right to opt out of dissection. Del. Karen Lewis Young has introduced the same legislation in the Assembly, so that both chambers will vote on the same bill.

In the past, this same legislation failed in both chambers, largely because the State Board of Superintendents has claimed that all of Maryland’s school districts ensured a student’s right to choose a dissection alternative. Yet NAVS’ research, including individually requesting records from each county board of education, has revealed that county policies are inconsistent and under-inclusive. In many instances, counties actually have no policy in place.

A statewide law is needed to ensure at all K-12 students have a choice not to dissect.

Your advocacy is essential in passing this legislation in 2019. Please ask your friends, family members—and especially your children—to write or call your state legislators to tell them you support this effort.


Call to Actions:

  1. Please contact your state Senator and Delegate and urge them to support this important 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 support giving students a choice about dissection throughout the state

Dear [Decision Maker],

I am writing to ask your support of SB 188/HB 206, which will give students the right to opt out of participation in or observation of a dissection activity in the classroom. This legislation would also require teachers to provide an educationally appropriate alternative.

The necessity for a student choice law in Maryland is clear, despite claims that all county boards of education already provide alternatives for students who want to use them. While some county boards or schools already have policies in place, that is not the case throughout the state, and the policies are not always the same.

A 2016 survey of county policies on dissection revealed inconsistencies, and Public Information Act requests filed in 2017 showed a wild range of policies. In many cases, they showed that there was no policy at all for offering students a choice. Even in counties that do have policies, advanced courses, such as AP Biology and Anatomy, do not allow students to opt out of animal dissection, even though dissection is not required under the AP curriculum.

Advancements in computer software now make it possible for schools to respect each student's ethical, moral or religious position regarding the humane treatment of animals without sacrificing learning objectives. There are many educationally excellent alternatives to dissection available online and through free loan programs. The ready availability of these free or low-cost alternatives means there is little cost to a school--or to the state--in implementing a student choice policy.

In addition, the cost of communication has dropped significantly as a large majority of information is shared within schools and with parents and students through electronic means. Policies and guidelines are already posted online, and notices of an upcoming dissection exercise can certainly be sent through student and parent portals with very little or no additional cost.

A recent article published in the journal "The American Biology Teacher," 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 recent "Newsweek" article, published on November 21, 2017, 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 do not make students choose between their moral convictions and the study of science. Vote "yes" to ensure that all K-12 students in Maryland have access to alternatives and can exercise their informed consent to request them instead of participating in animal dissection in the classroom.

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