ANNAPOLIS — Some lawmakers are set to cut up Sen. Ron Young’s bill that would allow school students to refuse to participate in or observe animal dissection.
The bill — which was also introduced by Young (D) in 2016 — was passed out of the Senate’s Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee earlier this week.
But when it reached the floor on Friday morning, some lawmakers wanted a closer look.
Debate on the bill was postponed until next week, and some Republican lawmakers say they will try to add amendments to Young’s proposal.
“Why are we doing this bill? Why do we need this bill?” asked Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings, R-Harford.
Young responded that there were many reasons for students to opt out of dissection in schools and their grades have suffered as a result.
He said there are more than 50 alternative methods to dissection and that studies show the alternative methods are of equal or better educational value.
“So, you know, in gym, I hated to run,” Jennings countered. “So what happens when I say, ‘You know, I don’t like running anymore,’ so I come to you with a bill. Where do we stop with this?”
“I think cutting up the animals is a little different than running. If they were cutting you up when you were running ...” Young said, as the chamber was filled with laughter.
Jennings, along with Carroll County Sen. Justin Ready (R), said they are going to consider amendments to the bill before it comes back to the Senate floor next week.
During a bill hearing earlier this session, Young said there are 18 states that allow students to refuse through law or written policy.
Of the 24 jurisdictions in Maryland, 17 have no written policies on dissection refusal, he said at the hearing. And just four jurisdictions — Baltimore city and Frederick, Garrett and Somerset counties — also allow students to opt out of dissection in advanced-level science courses.
In Frederick County Public Schools, the language is included in the Calendar Handbook, which is distributed to all students at the beginning of the school year and available online.
“The scientifically appropriate use of animals in the classroom laboratory under qualified adult supervision is encouraged for learning purposes,” the policy begins. “Animal dissection is used to develop an understanding of living processes and must include a concern for the humane and proper treatment and use of animals, particularly vertebrate animals.”
But students who wish to be excused from dissection on ethical or moral grounds can request exemption from their teachers in advance and teachers are asked to work with those students to identify alternative assignments.
“Students exercising alternative assignments will not be penalized in any way,” the policy states. “FCPS encourages opportunities for students to observe living organisms in their natural settings, and for teachers to emphasize respect for living things.”