Student Choice Laws and Policies



 network of activists also worked for the laws passage. The passage critically depended most heavily on the commitment of its sponsors, now Congressman James Greenwood (R) and Representative Tom Murphy.  By working together, the AAVS, PLAN, activists, ad legislators were able to craft and enact the most far reaching student's choice law in the country.  The passage of this law was a great victory for animals and students in Pennsylvania. 

If you would like more information regarding the Law, the campaign, or Alternatives to Dissection, please contact the AAVS' Education Department at 1-800-SAY-AAVS.

In the Summer of 1992, the Students Rights Option was passed. The Students Rights Option was amended to the Pennsylvania school code. It guarantees non-animal dissection alternatives to all Pennsylvania students in grades K - 12.  The law applies to students in both public and private schools who object to participating in dissection or vivisection.  The Students Rights Option was aggressively promoted by the AAVS and by the other subscribing organizations of the Pennsylvania Legislative Animals Network (PLAN). The AAVS drafted the original version of the Students Rights Option bill, developed advocacy materials relating to the initiative, and promoted the measure through direct mail and other means.  A cohesive and unified statewide


Students Rights Option:

afforded that pupil by this section an lowering a grade because a pupil has chosen an alternative education project or test is strictly prohibited.
 (d)  As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meaning given to them in this subsection:
(1) "Alternative education project" shall include, but is not limited to, the use of video tapes, models, films, books and computers which would provide an alternate avenue for obtaining the knowledge, information or experience required by the course of study in question.  The term also includes "alternative test".  A pupil has the right to refuse any alternative education project or test which may involve or necessitate any harmful use of an animals or animals parts.
(2) "Animal" shall mean any living organism of the kingdom animalia in the phylum chordata, organisms which have a notochord.  The term also includes an animal's cadaver or severed parts of any animal's cadaver.
(3) "Pupil" shall mean a person twenty-one (21) years of age or under who is matriculated in a course of instruction in an educational institution from kindergarten through grade twelve.  For the purpose of asserting the pupil's rights and receiving any notice or response pursuant tot this section, the term also includes the parents or guardians of the matriculated minor.

The text of the Students Rights Option which was offered as an amendment to Pennsylvania' s school code, P.L. 30, No. 14, reads as follows:
Section 2: The act is amended by adding a section to read: Section 1522.  Pupil's Right of Refusal; Animal Dissection - (a) Public or nonpublic school pupils from kindergarten through grade twelve may refuse to dissect, vivisect, incubate, capture or otherwise warm or destroy animals, or any parts thereof, as part of their course of instruction.
(b)  Schools shall notify incoming pupils and their parents or guardian of the right to decline to participate in an education project involving harmful or destructive use of animals and authorize parents or guardians to assert the rights of their children to refuse to participate in those projects.  Notice shall be given not less than three (3) weeks prior to the scheduled course exercise which involves the use of animals.
(c)  A pupil who chooses to refrain from participation or observation of a portion of a course of instruction in accordance with this section shall be offered an alternative education project for the purpose of providing the pupil an avenue for obtaining the factual knowledge, information or experience required by the course of study.  If tests require harmful or destructive use of animals, pupils shall be offered alternative tests.  A pupil shall not be discriminated against based upon his or her decision to exercise the right

This act shall take affect immediately.



California Code, Education Code 32255.1, 3, 4, 6, provide: 32255. Pupil with moral obligation to dissection or otherwise harming or destroying animals; notice; alternative education project

(a) Except as otherwise provided in Section 32255.6, any pupil with a moral objection to dissecting or otherwise harming or destroying animals, or any parts thereof, shall notify his or her teacher regarding this objection, upon notification by the school of his or her rights pursuant to Section 32255.4.

(b)  If the pupil chooses to refrain from participation in an education project involving the harmful or destructive use of animals, and if the teacher believes that an adequate alternative education project is possible, then the teacher may work with the pupil to develop and agree upon an alternate avenue for obtaining the knowledge, information, or experience required by the course of study in question.

(c) The alternative education project shall require a comparable time and effort investment by the pupil.  It shall not, as a means of penalizing the pupil be more arduous than the original education project.

(d) The pupil shall not be discriminated against based upon his or her decision to exercise his or her rights pursuant to this chapter.

(e) Pupils choosing an alternative educational project shall pass all examinations for the respective course of study in order to receive credit for that course of study.  However, if tests require the harmful or destructive use of animals, a pupil may, similarly, seek alternative tests pursuant to this chapter.

(f) A pupil's objection to participating in an educational project pursuant to this section shall be substantiated by a note from his or her parent or guardian.
(Added by Stats.1988, c.65, 2.)

32255.3 Decision of teacher on alternative educational project not arbitrary or capricious

(a) A teacher's decision in determining if a pupil may pursue an alternative educational project or be excused from the project shall not be arbitrary or capricious.

(b) Nothing in this chapter shall prevent any pupil from pursuing the grievance procedures in existing law.
(Added by Stats. 1988,c.65, 2)

32255.4 Teacher utilizing live or dead animals or parts in course; duty to inform pupils of rights

Each teacher teaching a course that utilizes live or dead animals or animals parts shall also inform the pupils of their rights pursuant to this chapter.
(Added by Stats. 1988,c.65, 2)

32255.6 Exemption of certain classes and activities from chapter

Classes and activities, conducted as part of a program in agricultural education that provide instruction on the care, management, and evaluation of domestic animals are exempt from the provisions of this chapter.
(Added by Stats. 1988,c.65, 2)

32255.5 Application of chapter from kindergarten through grades 1 to 12

Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, this chapter applies to all levels of instruction in all public schools operating programs from kindergarten through 1 to 12, inclusive.
(Added by Stats. 1988,c.65, 2)



Florida Statutes, Education, 233.0674 provides:
233.0674 Biological experiments on living subjects

(1) Legislative intent.

(a) The legislature finds that:

1. Biological experimentation is essential for an understanding of the complexity and diversity of life processes;

2. Such studies should lead to a broader awareness of living systems;

3. Capable students anxious to pursue careers in biological sciences should receive appropriate encouragement and guidance; and

4. Biological experimentation should be within the comprehension and capabilities of the student undertaking the study.

(b) The Legislature recognizes that the use of live animals in some kinds of experiments by students in grades K through 12 may be distasteful or traumatizing to immature students.

(2) State Policy.- It is therefore the intent of the Legislature with respect to biological experiments involving living subjects by students in grades K through 12 that:

(a) No surgery or dissection shall be performed on any living mammalian vertebrate or bird.  Dissection may be performed on any nonliving mammals or birds secured from a recognized source of such specimens and under supervision of qualified instructors.  Students may be excused upon written request of a parent or guardian.

(b) Lower orders of life and invertebrates may be used in such experiments.

(c) Nonmammalian vertebrates, excluding birds, may be used in biological experiments, provided that physiological harm does not result from such experiments.  Anatomical studies shall only be conducted on models which are anatomically correct for the animals being

studied or on nonliving nonmammaalian vertebrates secured from a recognized source of such specimens and under the supervision of  qualified instructors.  Students may be excused from such experiments upon written request of the parent or guardian.

(d) Observational studies of animals in the wild or in zoological parks, gardens, or aquaria, or of pets, fish, domestic animals, or livestock may be conducted.

(e) Studies of vertebrate animal cells, such as red blood cells or other tissue cells, plasma or serum, or anatomical specimens, such as organs, tissues, or skeletons, purchased or acquired from biological supply houses or research facilities or from wholesale or retail establishments which supply carcasses or parts of food animals may be conducted.

(f) Normal physiological and behavioral studies of the human animal may be conducted, provided that such projects are carefully selected so that neither physiological or psychological harm to the subject can result from such studies.

(g) All experiments shall be carried out under the supervision of a competent science teacher who shall be responsible for ensuring that the student has the necessary comprehension for the study to be undertaken.  Whenever feasible, specifically qualified experts in the field should be consulted.

(h) Live animals on the premises of public and nonpublic elementary and secondary schools shall be housed and cared for in a humane and safe manner.  Animals shall not remain on the premises of any school during periods when such school is not in session, unless adequate care is provided for such animals.

(3) Exemptions.  The provisions of this section shall not be construed to prohibit or constrain conventional instruction in the normal practices of animal husbandry or exhibition of any livestock in connection with an agricultural program or instruction of advanced students participating in advanced research, scientific studies, or projects.


Sarah Lawrence College

Choice Policy Regarding Dissection in Biology Courses

Sarah Lawrence College does not require students with ethical objections to participate in dissection.  Students who choose to refrain from such activities will be given alternatives that provide similar experiences.  Those who choose such

alternatives will not be penalized, although they will be responsible for the material presented in these exercises.  If appropriate, separate evaluations of their learning experiences maybe designed.   In courses where dissection is considered to be fundamental and therefore mandatory, students should be informed of this during registration.


Students who feel that undue pressure to dissect has been placed upon them, or question the designation of a course as requiring mandatory dissection, may file a complaint with the Dean of the College.

American Anti-Vivisection Society
801 Old York Road # 204
Jenkintown, PA 19046-1685
1 215 887-0816