High School and Middle School Students

How to Create a Student Choice Policy

1. Speak to a teacher who is part of your biology department and who knows about the curriculum being followed. Ask if there is a policy that already exists, and if so, make sure that the policy is easily accessible. Since you had to ask, it is likely the policy is not well-known.

2. Try to form a group at your high school. Inquire at your main office if there are benefits to having an official club on campus. Find out what the benefits are, and decide if you would like to organize an official group. Go through the steps you need in order to become a recognized club at your school.

3. Advertise your club or mission. It is always a good idea to have plenty of people on your side when you are trying to accomplish any goal. Put fliers all over your campus. If you have a school newspaper, see if you can get an article written in your paper.

4. Know your rights. More and more states are creating laws for high school students which ensure that high school students are given an alternative to dissection if they want one. 5. Set up a meeting with your principle. Ask who is ultimately responsible for making the decision about the student choice policy. In most cases, it is voted on at a school board meeting. Speaking with your principle will help you to understand how much reluctance you may encounter and where the issue needs to be brought up.

6. Get support from community members. Start petitions with students, but also the townspeople. Go door to door with a petition, taxpayers will have more weight in a final decision. Try to get as many people as you can to write their own individual letters. If people are willing to sign, but do not have time to write individual letters, you can write several versions yourself for others to sign. Also speak to local churches and other organizations that may be friendly to sponsoring a student choice policy. Talk with people at other local schools, to see if there are high schools near you with teachers who already use alternatives. Ask them to also write letters. Be sure to keep copies of everything in your own files.

7. Keep awareness at a high level. Make T-shirts and buttons to wear, and stickers to pass out to your friends. Try to get an article published in a local newspaper. Make and distribute fliers whenever you can. Be sure that your whole school and community know that you are trying to implement a student choice policy.

8. Set up a meeting with your PTA or PTO. Your PTA or PTO will have a lot of influence on what happens in your school, so you want to be sure to have their support. They should also have members of the school board who would be able to bring the issue up to a vote. Be sure to preempt them with the material that you gathered, such as petitions and letters of support.

9. Don't give up! Continue to set up meetings with your principle, town selectman, biology department, and keep bringing them the support and information you will continually be gathering. You should be meeting with someone at least once a month. However, you will also want to be sure to follow a chain of command. If you approach your principle before your biology department, it is likely that you will be redirected to your biology department, so you may need to start at the bottom and work your way up.

Sample Letter or Presentation

1. History: Who have you spoken to already? What did they say?
I have already met with the chairperson of the biology department, and s/he feels the alternatives will not be acceptable.

2. Respond: Do you agree with what you have been told?
I feel that this is a narrow-minded opinion that does not allow a student the freedom of ethical objection.

3. Back up your response:
It is narrow-minded because many alternatives are technologically advanced and used by top universities. As an individual I should be granted the right to use one of these alternatives.

4. Offer a way in which to accomplish your goal:
We can borrow alternatives from The Science Bank and Animalearn or several other organizations that lend out alternatives to students.

5. Present your ideas clearly.
I have copies of studies done since the 1980s which show that students can learn at effective rates when using alternatives. It helps to have the studies on hand during a presentation or attach them to a letter. You may also provide letters from professors or teachers at other schools supporting the use of alternatives.

6. Remind them there is a need:
Though many students have not objected at our school, it is safe to assume that many did not do so because an alternative was not offered. You can also remind people about the petitions, articles in newspapers, anything that shows interest in the debate.

7. Know your audience:
If you know something that the person you are conversing with is likely to ask about, be sure to mention that in your presentation. As a biology professor, I know you must be concerned in keeping students interested in biology, but you are sure to keep interest levels higher if you are able to accommodate for a wider variety of students.

8. Be sure to leave your contact name/number/e-mail address at the end of any letter or presentation. Be sure to open up discussion for questions. You should know who you are conversing with well enough to be prepared to answer any questions that they may offer you. If during a presentation you are asked a question that you cannot answer, politely tell whoever asked that you would love to find that out for them and request an e-mail address or phone number. Be sure to follow up.