Animalearn Commends Archdiocese of Philadelphia on its Model Student Choice Policy

Archbishop Wood Graduate Awarded 2009 Humane Student of the Year

2009 Humane Student of Year, Megan Sweeney
Animalearn is also awarding its 2009 Annual Humane Student of Year to Megan Sweeney.
PHILADELPHIA, PA – October 5, 2009- This fall, thousands of students in 20 Archdiocese of Philadelphia high schools will benefit from a policy revision that will allow students with concerns about traditional animal dissection to use alternatives instead in science class. Students will be achieving this with the help of a national animal protection group.

According to Ms. Mary E. Rochford, Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, “As the 21st century evolves, greater use of virtual dissection experiences will be encouraged and eventually replace the use of scientifically preserved animals.” Ms. Rochford adds, “With the availability of virtual lab experiences and other internet instructional tools, students can arrive at the same learning.”

According to Laura Ducceschi, Director of Animalearn, “The Archdiocese’s student choice policy can serve as a model for other schools in the state of Pennsylvania, in addition to other dioceses across the U.S.” Ducceschi added, “Students attending Archdiocesan schools can borrow alternatives to dissection from Animalearn’s free loan program, The Science Bank. We will make available copies of The Science Bank catalogue to use as a resource to every biology classroom in the Archdiocese.”

Animalearn is also awarding its 2009 Annual Humane Student of Year to Megan Sweeney, an animal-lover and recent graduate of Archbishop Wood High School, in Warminster. Ms. Sweeney followed her conscience and opted for an alternative assignment instead of dissecting animals in her biology class. The award includes a gift of dissection alternatives, including models and CD-ROMs for her alma mater.

Animalearn’s newly redesigned website,, offers a searchable database of nearly 450 alternatives to dissection, downloadable software, and other humane science tools, along with a new and improved search engine, simplifying the process for locating humane alternatives for students and teachers. A completely free resource to students and teachers nationwide, The Science Bank offers interactive models, videos, and virtual dissection CD-ROMs and DVDs.

Fact Sheet

  • Tens of thousands of cats, frogs, and other animals are killed annually, specifically for dissection and other educational purposes. Comparative studies show that students learn as well or better by using virtual dissection and other humane alternatives than they do by dissecting animals.

  • The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s policy is modeled after the Pennsylvania Students Rights Option, a law established in 1992, which enables public and non-public students from grades K-12 who do not want to harm animals as part of their coursework to use an alternative instead. A link to the Pennsylvania law is available at:

  • Pennsylvania is one of 10 states that have enacted student choice laws and policies.

  • Excerpts of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s policy include:

    • “A student who chooses to refrain from participation or observation of a portion of a course of instruction in accordance with this policy must bring a signed note from parent/guardian and student to the attention of the instructor in advance of the laboratory experiments. The student shall then be offered an alternative education project in order for the student to obtain the factual knowledge, information, or experience required by the course of study.”

    • “‘Alternative education project’ as used in this policy includes, but is not limited `to, the use of video tapes, models, films, books, computer programs, or web-based programs that could provide an alternative avenue for obtaining the knowledge, information, or experience, required by the course of study.”

  • According to the Office of Communications, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia serves thousands of students in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties.

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