CSTA Classroom Science

Keeping You Informed: Assembly Bill 2640 (Dissection)

By Peter A'Hearn, CASE Past President

In the Spring 2024  Issue  of California Classroom Science  (CCS), CASE published seven articles giving different perspectives on the topic of dissection. There was also a survey in which we asked readers to share their perspectives. Most respondents to the survey felt that dissection was a valuable classroom teaching tool that gave students real experience and that it was not easily replaced with simulations. For example: 

Dissection provides an incomparable opportunity for students to see actual physiology in context. Not an idealized version, or a model. Real specimens provide additional sensory information and anatomical variation that no model can fully capture.

At the same time, most respondents had ethical and environmental concerns about dissection. For example:

I have concerns about the conditions of suppliers, including how they treat the animals, as well as the health and environmental concerns with preservation chemicals.


I worry about showing respect for living things and the ethics of how specimens are sourced.

Most respondents have had students raise concerns about dissection and opt out of dissections.  Note that in California, all students have a right to opt out of dissection and be given an alternative assignment (EC 32255.1).

Respondents had mixed feelings about legislation around the topic of dissection, for example:

Although I have ethical concerns, I'd support legislation to eliminate real specimens ONLY IF realistic simulations or other realistic opportunities were available.

Current legislation is probably enough to protect student’s options, but teachers might not be aware of the requirements. I think more information about the source could be helpful.


I support legislation in terms of suppliers, and possibly disposal, but am hesitant to support any interference in curriculum.

Speaking of legislation, shortly after the dissection article was published, AB 2640 was introduced in the California State Assembly by Assembly Member Kalra. AB 2640 would require teachers to inform students in writing that the class would include dissections and the rights students have to opt out and receive an alternate assignment. The original text (subsequently amended) would have required teachers to provide information on the source of the specimens as well as the environmental impact. It also contained a section strongly urging schools and districts to end the practice of dissection by July of 2028.

The CASE Advocacy Committee reviewed the text and expressed its concerns about several parts of the bill. The author agreed to the changes, and the bill was amended. CASE felt that the requirements to report on the source and environmental impacts of specimens put a heavy burden on classroom teachers who might have to do research to find out the information. Also, since many teachers purchase specimens at a butcher or bait shop, the information might not be available. Second, CASE objected to the language about ending the practice of dissection by 2028. We feel (along with most of our survey respondents) that dissection is still a valid and powerful tool for student learning and disagree with the State of California urging it be phased out. 

The current language of the bill reflects the changes that CASE requested. Source and environmental impact do not need to be reported. Instead, suppliers are required to provide information about sources, which could be useful information for teachers to assess the ethics of using a particular supplier. The bill strongly urges districts to examine alternatives to dissection by July 2028. This carries no weight and hopefully, we are periodically reviewing our practices anyway, so it doesn’t seem like an imposition.

CASE is actively following this bill and maintains a neutral position on AB 2640. This neutrality does not indicate support or opposition but reflects a balanced stance after considering multiple factors, including the amendments made. However, the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) has decided to oppose the bill.

CASE encourages members with strong opinions about AB 2640 to communicate them with their State Senator. To find your state senator, visit Find Your California Representative, enter in your address, then select your state senator. Once on their website, locate their "contact" section and follow instructions. 

This is an ongoing issue. We expect more legislation to be introduced in the future. We also expect more alternatives to dissection to become available. We firmly believe that decisions about classroom instruction are best made by teachers, who know the goals they are trying to achieve, can balance ethical and environmental concerns, and know how best to ignite the fire of science learning in their students. 



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