Guidelines for Passing a Student Choice Policy
You can pass a student choice policy in your school, school district or college. Here are some suggestions:
Develop a clear and concise policy
An effective student choice policy should include the following provisions:
- Alternatives will be made available in all classes that use live (or once living) animals. Animal use includes, but is not limited to: dissection, live animal experiments, insect collections, or any classroom activity that involves animals or their body parts.
- Students will not be penalized in any way for voicing their objections to dissection or for requesting an alternative.
- At the beginning of each term, the teacher will inform all students of their right to use an alternative to dissection/animal use.
- The alternative assignment will require the same amount of time and effort as the dissection exercise and should be limited to the same academic aim.
- The teacher, not the student, is responsible for proposing the alternative assignment.
- Alternatives will not include watching another student dissect, taking a lower grade, dropping the class, or changing majors.
- The testing procedure will not require the use of dissected specimens for those who choose an alternative.
- The school administration will monitor and ensure implementation of the student choice policy.
- The policy will be incorporated into existing curriculum guidelines and the student handbook.
Put Your Request for a Formal Policy in Writing
Address your letter to the appropriate administrators, such as your teachers, principal, science department head, school board director, or dean. Stress the need for a written agreement and the importance of informing students of their right to dissection alternatives. Be sure to list reasons a policy is needed, including ethical, financial and environmental arguments.
Here is a sample letter requesting a student choice policy:
[SALUTATION. FIRST NAME LAST NAME]
[POSITION (Department Head, Principal, Dean, etc.)]
[SCHOOL NAME AND ADDRESS]
Dear [SALUTATION, LAST NAME],
It has recently come to my attention that [SCHOOL NAME] does not have a formal policy guaranteeing students the right to a dissection alternative without penalty. Since there are many reasons a student choice policy would benefit [SCHOOL NAME] and its students, I am requesting that a policy be adopted immediately.
First and foremost, from an academic viewpoint, dissection is not necessary for students to meet learning objectives associated with this exercise. Recent studies have shown that performance scores of students who have used humane alternatives equal or surpass the test scores of students who have participated in dissection.
From a financial standpoint, the use of dissection alternatives can save [SCHOOL NAME] money every year, as many virtual alternatives are available for free or for a nominal fee and dissection specimens would not have to be purchased annually.
Formally giving students the right to choose a dissection alternative is in line with the 3 R’s Principles proposed by Russell and Birch in 1959 —to reduce, refine, and replace animal use whenever possible. Use of dissection alternatives spares animal lives and teaches students that animals are not expendable.
[SALUTATION, LAST NAME], please consider the benefits that can come from adopting a student choice policy at [SCHOOL NAME]. I would be happy to direct you to comprehensive resources available to schools looking to introduce dissection alternatives into their curricula. I look forward to hearing from you by [DATE] to further discuss [SCHOOL NAME]’s student choice policy.
Thank you for your consideration.
[YOUR NAME/ ORGANIZATION]
Start a Petition
Start a short and simple petition supporting the use of dissection alternatives and collect as many signatures as possible from students, parents, and teachers. Use school media, such as the newspaper, TV or radio station, as resources for educating the campus about the issues surrounding dissection. Initiate a discussion about dissection and student choice at student government or science club meetings. You may also wish to organize like-minded students to go to your teacher/department head as a group.
Collect as many signatures from other students, parents, and teachers as possible. The petition should be short and simple. For example:
We request that [School Name] institute a formal policy whereby all students are given, without penalty, the option of a non-animal alternative to dissection.
[PETITION FORM HERE]
Make an appointment to meet with your school administrators (such as a principal, science department head, school board director, or dean) or get on the agenda for the next school board meeting. Find out how long you will be allowed to speak and limit your remarks to your allotted time. However, make sure to take full advantage of the opportunity to make your opinion heard.
Prepare to Make a Formal Presentation Requesting a Student Choice Policy
Here are talking points to use in a presentation given to faculty, board members, parents and students on Student Choice:
- Twenty-two states plus Washington D.C. have already passed student choice laws, policies, resolutions or general policies guaranteeing a student the right to choose a dissection alternative. Some countries have banned the practice altogether.
- The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) encourage teachers to be aware of students’ objection to dissection and to provide appropriate alternatives for those students.
- Dissection is not necessary for students to meet learning objectives associated with the exercise. Studies have shown that performance scores of students who have used humane alternatives equal or surpass the test scores of students who have participated in dissection.
- Investing in dissection alternatives saves both time and money because there is no need to replenish animal specimens year after year, and use of alternatives omits the need for set-up and clean-up of animal specimens.
- Use of dissection alternatives can spare animal lives while following the “3 R’s” principles of reduction, refinement, and replacement of animal use.
When the student choice policy is approved, be sure it is formalized in writing and incorporated into existing curriculum guidelines and the student handbook.
Publicize Your Student Choice Policy
Contact school and local media (including newspapers, websites, TV and radio stations) to make sure that students are informed of their right to choose dissection alternatives. Passing a student choice policy–especially at the college level–requires persistence and tenacity. You may have to go through procedures such as contacting a Grievance Committee, the Board of Trustees, various student group leaders, professors, department heads or others.
Take it one step at a time and address opposing arguments as they come up. We are here to assist you every step of the way with ideas, strategies, sample letters, presentations, and information on available alternatives. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-922-FROG (3764).