Model Laws

An Act Providing For A Student's Informed Consent to Dissection


Read Commentary


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 make alternatives to dissection and vivisection available to all students.


Sec. 2. Definitions

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

  • "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.
  • "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.
  • "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.
  • "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 the use of live or once live animals for obtaining and testing knowledge, information, or experience as required by a course of study.
  • "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.
  • "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. Regulation

(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 which the student has declined and a comparable grading method must be assess the alternative project.


(e) The State Board of Education shall notify all schools, at the beginning of each school year, of this law's provisions. It shall require that each school notify its students and their parents in writing:


(i) at the beginning of each semester or quarter that all students have the right to refuse to take part in those activities outlined in §3)a)




(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 §3)a).


(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) The State Board of Education shall adopt necessary rules and regulations to ensure the proper administration and compliance with this act throughout the state.


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




Additional Commentary

This model law restates the principle that students' moral and religious beliefs should be respected and therefore they should have the right to decide whether or not to participate in or observe educational activities involving animals. Many students face discrimination from both teachers and other students for objecting to dissection and other animal projects; some even receive lower grades because of their positions. Many more are afraid to speak up and subsequently abandon the study of science altogether. These situations occur even though there are suitable alternatives to dissection which accomplish the same level of learning and are in many instances less expensive.


It is important to honor a student's conviction against dissection and vivisection. Whether a student takes issue with educational dissection on moral or religious grounds, the choice to participate in such activities should remain with the student and alternatives should be made available to her. In fact, educational alternatives such as anatomical models and computer programs are adequate methods for obtaining and testing knowledge and are often less expensive. For example, in the long run, interactive CD-ROMs and models that teach students about a frog's anatomy are less expensive than buying dozens of frogs year after year. CD-ROMs and models can be more effective teaching tools insofar as exercises can be repeated and students can review information again and again whereas dissection presents a "one-shot" approach to learning. In addition, free loans of alternatives are available through the National Anti-Vivisection Society's Dissection Alternatives Loan Program, as well as from other sources.


Unfortunately, whether student choice and alternative assignments are available is often left to teacher discretion due to lack of formal policies within schools and school boards. There are many instances of discrimination from teachers and other students against students who do not wish to participate in or observe educational dissection. Such discrimination often has negative results including lower grades, abandoned interest in the life sciences, and loss of respect for life. Codifying student choice and the availability of educational alternatives would alleviate these problems.


If the law were enacted, it would require a state's Board of Education to implement notice procedures and provide for alternative educational materials such as animal replica models, videos, books, CD-ROMs, and other computer learning programs.


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