Dissection Choice Policy (Model)

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Developing ethical sensitivity in students is to be encouraged, and students’ values or beliefs regarding dissection must therefore be respected. Students requesting an alternative lesson plan should be granted their request without any pressure to do otherwise or with any negative consequences.


Dissection should be understood to be the cutting, killing, inspecting, touching, handling, preserving, mounting, or other manipulation of living or dead members of the Kingdom Animalia or their parts for scientific study.


These regulations will apply to all schools with students in the K-12 range. The following policy will be outlined in any and all curriculum guides that life science teachers receive:

• A student’s grade will not be affected in any way by the student’s choice of an alternative to specimen dissection, nor will students who choose an alternative lesson be penalized or discriminated against for that choice in any other way.

• Students should be informed of the availability of an alternative assignment. This notice should be included in relevant syllabi, student course selection guides, and should be posted in all science classrooms. In addition, science teachers will inform students of the option of an alternative not less than three weeks prior to the actual course exercise.

• Alternative education projects, including but not limited to computer programs, plastic models, videos, charts, etc. will be available to all life science classes which incorporate dissection exercises.

• The alternative project will require a student’s investment of time and energy comparable to that required by the original specimen dissection. Requiring more arduous effort on the part of the student than would have been required by the specimen dissection will be considered penalizing. In addition, not providing the student comparable depth and scope of learning would also be considered penalizing.

• The onus should not be on the student to determine an alternative course of study. Students choosing the alternative will be given information on specific activities and resources to use as their alternative project. Teacher assistance will be available for all students who choose alternatives. “Watching” other students perform specimen dissection shall not be considered an appropriate alternative.

The Ethical Science Education Coalition (ESEC) provides assistance to students, teachers, and administrators in the selection of alternative programs that are comparable or superior in cost, time, and educational value to specimen dissection.