Name: Student Right of Refusal for Animal Dissection
Bill Number: N/A
Ask Maryland legislators to reintroduce legislation to
ensure that students are not punished for standing up for their right to choose
humane dissection alternatives in the classroom. County policies throughout the
state are inconsistent and under-inclusive, and are often difficult or
impossible to find. A statewide law is needed to ensure at all students have a
choice not to dissect in grades K-12.
A recent Newsweek article exposed the cruelty to the animals used for
dissection, yet another reason why schools should move away from dissecting
animals in the classroom.
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Please sponsor legislation giving students a choice about dissection
Dear [Decision Maker],
I am writing to ask you to sponsor legislation that will give students the right to refuse to participate in or observe a dissection activity in the classroom. It would also require teachers to provide an educationally appropriate alternative. Last year, this bill failed to pass, but the rationale for adopting a student choice law remains compelling. While some county boards or schools already have policies in place to accommodate student requests for an alternative to animal dissection, it 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, and, in many cases, no policy at all on offering students a choice. 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 free or low-cost alternatives means there is little cost to a school--or to the state--in implementing a student choice policy.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 consider taking the lead in introducing legislation that guarantees students in our state the right to a 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. PurposeIn 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. DefinitionsFor 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 dissectionThe 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.
Sincerely,[Your Name] [Your Address] [City, State ZIP]