CSTA Classroom Science

Exploring Perspectives on Classroom Dissection: Insights from CASE, PETA, and Beyond

By Peter A'Hearn, CASE Past President

A few years back the California Association of Science Educators (CASE) formerly known as the California Science Teachers Association and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) found themselves on opposite sides of a dissection debate in Sacramento. PETA was supporting a bill to ban classroom dissection K-12 in public schools. It was CASE’s position that classroom science teachers are in the best position to make decisions about the best ways to teach science and that dissections are both a very common teaching practice and are central to the way anatomy and physiology are commonly taught. There were speakers on both sides of the issue and the bill failed to advance out of committee by a single vote. Many thanks to Jill Grace (CASE Past President), Jessica Sawko (previous association Executive Director), and Alyssa Nemeckova Fairfield, and the members of the Legislative Committee and Board, who led the effort for CASE. 

Since then, PETA has developed a good relationship with CASE, advertising in California Classroom Science and presenting at conferences to promote respectful treatment of animals in the classroom. Last year there were whispers that another anti-dissection bill was in the works and I reached out to PETA with the understanding that while we might agree to disagree on some topics, we could continue to maintain our positive relationship with good and open communication. While CASE has traditionally had a dim view of legislative mandates in the classroom, dissection is a complex issue and far from black and white. 

There are six articles in this issue sharing different perspectives on dissection, and we are hoping to start some discussions on social media. Articles include:

  • Why Animal-Free Anatomy Lessons are the Future of Education
  • Evaluating Alternatives to Dissection with the SynFrog
  • Invaluable Learning Experiences: Thoughtful Design and Implementation of Dissections
  • A Student's Experience with High School Dissection 
  • Changing My Thinking About Dissection

We are interested in your experiences and perspectives. I want to thank Samantha Crowe from Teach Kind Science/PETA for working with me on the vision for this discussion and for helping to get articles sharing PETA’s perspective. 

We want to make sure that in our classrooms, we model respect for life and also show respect for our student’s perspectives. All students have a right to opt out of dissection and be given an alternative assignment (EC 32255.1). Teachers need to make sure that students are aware of this right and students should have the opportunity to discuss their thoughts on dissection if they choose to.

Please take our survey to express your thoughts regarding dissection in the classroom. We want to gain a better understanding of the perspectives of our members and fellow educators on this topic.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section too!

Peter A’Hearn
CASE Past President



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