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Trustees Consider New Policy on Animals in Classroom

The first reading of a new policy on the use of animals in schools for instructional purposes was held by the Huntington School Board this past Monday night during a public meeting of trustees in the Jack Abrams School auditorium.

"Observation and experimentation with living organisms and animals gives students unique perspectives of life processes," reads the first sentence of the proposed policy. "Animals and animal materials should be used respectfully and for the purpose of meeting course objectives."

The policy would require the building principal to give permission prior to animals being brought into a school or classrooms. "It is the principal's responsibility to ensure that there is an appropriate educational purpose if any animal is housed in a classroom," according to the draft policy. "Animals are not to be transported on school buses with the exception of animals certified to assist persons with disabilities."

The principal or his/her designee is charged with developing "a plan of care for those animals housed in school in the event of an emergency school closing or in the event the animals remain in the classroom on days when school is not in session."

The proposed policy allows "any student expressing a moral or religious objection to the performance or witnessing of the dissection of an animal, either wholly or in part," to be "provided the opportunity to undertake and complete an alternative project approved by the student's teacher; provided, however, that such objection is substantiated in writing by the student's parent or legal guardian."

The policy gives as an example of an alternative project "the use of computer simulations or research. Students who perform alternative projects shall not be penalized." Parents and students will be given "reasonable notice" about their "rights to seek an alternate project to dissection." The notice will be provided "at least once at the beginning of the school year" and will also be made available upon request.

"Students in elementary school must receive instruction in the humane treatment and protection of animals and the importance of the part they play in the economy of nature as well as the necessity of controlling the proliferation of animals that are subsequently abandoned and caused to suffer extreme cruelty," according to the draft policy. Such instruction shall be for a period of time as specified by the Board of Regents and may be joined with work in literature, reading, language, nature study or ethnology."

A second reading of the proposed policy will be held during the next meeting of the Huntington School Board on Monday, February 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the Jack Abrams School auditorium.

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