Student Choice Laws

For copies of state laws, click the links below or call 1-800-922-FROG.

As the number of students objecting to dissection grows (and the benefits of non-animal alternatives become even more evident), a groundswell of change is clearly emerging. More school districts across the country are implementing student choice policies, more states are enacting student choice laws or policies, and more colleges, universities and medical schools are voluntarily eliminating live animal labs in favor of innovative alternatives.

These new laws, policies and procedures (which NAVS is working to make universal) guarantee the right of students who have moral objections to dissection to utilize alternatives without being penalized. But we still have a long road ahead, and we need people like you to get involved today!

The Distinctions Between Law and Policy

Student choice laws protecting public school students’ right to choose alternatives must be enacted by each state’s legislature. Typically, student choice laws require public elementary, middle and high schools to notify students and/or their parents if a forthcoming course includes dissection, and to allow students the option of engaging in a humane alternative without penalty. (Unfortunately, current laws don’t apply to private schools, colleges or universities.) A student choice law is very clear and easy to enforce.

Formal student choice policies may be adopted by a state Board of Education, at the individual school or school district level. State Board of Education policies generally direct local school districts to adopt guidelines for allowing students to opt-out of dissection, while local policies can be developed for a specific school or school district but apply only to that entity. A board of education or local policy is easier to change and may be harder to enforce because the terms may not be as clearly defined.

Yet even in states where student choice laws have been passed or student choice polices have been adopted, students and parents should be vigilant in protecting the rights that these laws and policies ensure. The reason? Many educators are not even aware of prevailing laws and policies (much less how to implement them). Once a school has been notified that they are obligated to follow an existing law or policy—and are given a copy of the relevant law or policy—a student’s choice not to dissect should be easy to honor.

If you, as a student, parent or as a teacher, object to your school’s policies (or your state’s lack of student choice laws), you now have the resources to reshape the way science is taught. By joining forces with NAVS, you can help to advance better, more humane science education.

Implementing a Student Choice Policy

While a rapidly growing number of educators and school districts are allowing dissection alternatives, refusing dissection can still be an arduous battle for students. As part of our commitment to advancing humane education, NAVS provides valuable resources to help students, teachers and parents implement student choice policies in their own school districts.

BioLEAP—The Biology Education Advancement Programprovides resources for students and teachers to explore the many options available for biology education that does not harm animals. These include:

    • An online resource center, including dissection alternative options, projections of cost savings and even a library of free loan options available through BioLEAP.
    • The NAVS Student Choice Resource Tool Kit– an invaluable tool for initiating a Student Choice Policy in your school district, while at the same time adhering fully to the most stringent academic requirements of life science.

The NAVS Dissection Hotline – 1-800-922-FROG (3764) – the nation’s only toll-free resource providing information, support and expert counseling for students, parents and teachers looking to put an end to dissection in the classroom, once and for all.