SELECT COMMITTEE ON CHILDREN
joint FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING DISSECTION CHOICE.
JOINT FAVORABLE CHANGE OF REFERENCE TO EDUCATION
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Select Committee on Children
Representative Diana Urban, 43rd District
REASONS FOR BILL:
This bill allows students to conscientiously object to performing dissections in the classroom.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Jessica Rubin, Assistant Clincial Professor of Law, UCONN School of Law: As a lawyer, legal educator, expert in animal law and a parent, strongly urges support of bill. “Since 1988, fifteen states have responded to growing student concerns about the ethical treatment of animals and enacted laws and other official policies allowing students with moral, religious, and other objections to harming animals to be excused from classroom dissection.” It is unnecessary and unfair that students should fear being put into these uncomfortable situations, especially when alternatives to animal dissection abound.
Ian Smith, Research Associate, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA): “Classroom animal dissection-which takes the lives of roughly 10 million animals each year- is consistently a key issue for PETA's student members; we regularly hear from students across the country, including here in Connecticut, who are troubled by the prospect of being expected to dissect animals.” “If HB 5530 passes, PETA will provide non-animal alternatives to dissection to any middle school or high school that requests them.” Fifteen states, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York, have enacted laws or policies allowing students to opt out of classroom animal dissection.
Maryanne “Annie” Hornish: Dissection alternatives save time and money. “Dissection alternatives (e.g., models, computer programs, DVDs) are either free or represent a one-time cost, whereas dissection kits need to be reordered for each class.” Alternatives provide a superior teaching method. “The overwhelming majority (+90%) of medical schools (including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Stanford) have eliminated animal use in teaching. Computer-based methods and anatomical simulators are already being used for teaching everything from basic physiology to hands-on trauma care and even microsurgical techniques.” National Science Teachers Association and National Association of Biology Teachers support dissection choice policies.
Peter J. Swartz, Psy.D., Clinical Instructor in Psychology, Psychologist, Harvard Medical School: “Forcing students who object to cutting up dead animals to participate in classroom animal dissection can not only cause them distress at the time of the event, but it can have an enduring negative impact on both their education and mental health.”
Angie DeRosa, Evie DeRosa, Brittany Bayarsky, Paul Munko, Gabrielle Wilson, Kim Reynolds, Megan Carlson, Naugatuck High School Animal Rights Club: All submitted testimony in support of this bill. Each sites their personal and moral objections to dissection. Many believe that it could have harmful psychiatric effects on a student if forced to dissect unwillingly.
Joycelyn D. Maw, M.D.: Medical doctor in CT. “Other than human dissections (for which there is no substitute), animal dissections and experimentation did not add any additional benefit to what I learned.”
Elizabeth M. DiLernia, Biology Teacher: As a teacher of biology for 15 years in CT, has seen first hand the distress dissection causes certain students and allows alternative assignments for those who morally, ethically, religiously, or otherwise, oppose dissections. However, she is in the minority. “Each year, fellow teaching peers demand that all of their students dissect, and proceed to fail them (for that activity) if they do not.” Worse, I have seen students advised not to take entire, full year biology classes if they were not prepared to dissect. Personal experience shows that alternatives such as online, interactive activities are just as good. No student should be denied opportunity for learning science due to a strong ethical or religious stance.
Rosamund Downing, Teacher, East Lyme High School: Faculty advisor for the Animal Welfare Group at East Lyme High. “I have found that many students not only oppose dissection, they refuse to enroll in science courses because of the moral dilemma this poses for them. Their avoidance of science is a great loss to society in general.”
Dr. Matthias Blumrich: “Technology has made the cruel practice of dissection unnecessary for all but, perhaps, high school honors biology majors who are seriously considering a career in medicine. I have personally seen the simulation software that is available and it is clearly sufficient for the purpose of general biology education.” If for no other reason, CT should ban or limit dissection to save money.
Ana Paulina Morron, Student at Yale Divinity School: The issue at stake has little to do with dissection itself. “Instead, the issue is the right of our young citizens to act in accordance with their value system.” She requests consideration of adding a provision to require that teachers inform their students of the right to conscientiously object to performing dissections.
Joan Poster, VMD, PhD, Poster Animal Hospital: As a veterinarian of many years, supports this bill. There is no scientific justification for the required dissection of animals to understand the principles of human and animal anatomy and physiology in middle and high school. “In fact, dissection of animal bodies is not necessary even at the highest levels of human medicine (95% of medical schools do not use any animals to train medical students) and it is not always included even in veterinary school curricula.” “Anatomy – even surgery – can be, and frequently is, taught without dissecting or in any way harming animals.” Forcing dissection on students is disrespectful to the student and communicates that their feelings of compassion are without merit. Forcing dissection on students is apt to alienate them from the sciences and close off promising career paths.
Dr. Regina Milano: A biology teacher for 14 years who recently completed doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Dissertation entitled, “Biology Teachers' Dissection Practices and the Influences That Lead to Their Adoption: An Exploratory Research.” As a student she opposed dissection for ethical reasons. “Had the alternatives to dissection being used in Europe in veterinary universities been made known to me, I would have pursued a career in medicine.” Refusal to dissect based on values, morals and ideology represents a constitutional right under the first amendment, that we in public education are bound ethically to ensure. “Yet, rather than ensuring students rights, my study reveals that 71.9% of teachers continue to irresponsibly thrust upon their students, notions of the necessity of dissection that is only rooted in their own antiquated experiences . .”
Pam Pinto, Allison Holaday, Karen Snyder, Lew Merrow, Susan Vessicchio, Christine Koczur, Anthony Sorge, Karen Laski, Erin Cain, Kimberly Doro, Christine Leible, Maura Veneri, James Hoffecker, d. Jake Wyman, Marsha Hemstead, Nancy Nolan, Linda Darico, Raegan Guglielmo, Paula Karwowski, Christopher Cornell, Tracy Benedi, Juan Antelo, Wendy Horowitz, Tricia Anderson, Jack Lotko, Marcy LaBella, Deb Wilson Sutfin, Tracey Hammer,Julia Otero, Lara Blumrich, Maura Veneri, James Hoffecker, Janice Gavitt, Marie Risk, Holly Darico, Jaclyn Vancour, Allison Flannery, Juliet Bonazzoli, Julia Caruk, Robin Roraback, Kali K., Sally Anne Hubbard, Anne Voloshin: All submitted testimony on this bill. All support this bill and its goal to give children the option of refusal of dissection in schools. Each site personal, religious, or moral objections as to why this bill should be enacted.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE): In an effort to outline the district impact, CABE wants to let you know this restriction would cause districts to consider parental approval form-creation, adoption, review to implement; alternative lesson plan; and alternative coursework. “The time and financial resources to alter the curriculum are a burden to the district. During these tough economic times, we cannot support this specific mandated legislation.”
REPORTED BY: ALI LEGROS, ASST. CLERK; ELIZABETH S. GIANNAROS, CLERK