New Jersey’s Choice: Compassion
Following the lead of eight other states, New Jersey recently enacted legislation requiring that students be informed of their right to opt out of dissection without penalty and requiring teachers to provide a humane alternative.
The law, which received overwhelming support in the state legislature, also requires schools to inform parents that their children have the right not to dissect. Many students feel intimidated at the thought of requesting an alternative from their teachers. Parental involvement will help them feel confident about expressing their moral, religious, or environmental objections.
Daran Haber, M.D., a New Jersey member of PCRM, testified in support of the bill. Dr. Haber is one of a growing number of physicians, biologists, and other experts around the country who recognize that dissection is inhumane and can also be emotionally traumatic for students.
The other states with dissection choice laws are California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia. Four additional states—Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, and Massachusetts—have state resolutions or education department policies that protect student choice.
Young people want humane options. One survey of ninth graders found that 50 percent would have chosen an alternative to dissection if offered one. The New Jersey victory should encourage citizens from other states to lobby their elected officials for a similar dissection choice law or to strengthen the language in an existing one.