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Frequently Asked Questions about the Dissection Opt Out Law

P.L. 2005, CHAPTER 266 (C.18A:35-4.24 & C.18A:35-4.25) requires school districts to provide alternative education projects for those pupils who choose not to participate in dissection and related activities. 

Q. What does the law require?

A. The law allows public school pupils in grades K-12 to choose not to participate in certain experiments involving animals.  The law requires the school to provide those students with an alternative education project.

Q. What procedures must be in place?

A. Schools are required to notify pupils and their parents or guardians at the beginning of the school year of the students’ right to refuse to dissect, vivisect, incubate, capture, harm, or destroy organisms.  Parents or guardians are then required to inform the school, within two weeks of the receipt of the notification, of their desire to exempt their child from participation in the stated activities.

Q. How should parents be notified?

A. Information about the pupil’s right not to participate and the parent’s responsibilities can be included in the Parent and Student Handbook.  The district may also choose to send a letter to parents about the course requirements and opt-out procedures.  Teachers should include information in course descriptions or the course syllabus.

Q. What happens if a parent/guardian does not respond?

A.  The process is to “opt out” not “opt in”; therefore, the parent/guardian must notify the school in writing within two weeks of notification. 

Q. What are acceptable alternatives?

A. Videos, models, computer programs, books, and other manipulatives may be used to teach the knowledge and skills required by the course of study. The teacher and student should document clear learning objectives and expectations for the alternative project before the student begins.

Q. Where can I find resources to comply with alternative projects?

A. Consult with your science supply vendors to learn about products that are available.  Professional organizations such as the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and the New Jersey Science Teachers Association (NJSTA) often evaluate education resources and make recommendations.  

Q. How will this impact a student’s grade?

A. Students’ grades may not be affected by their decision not to participate in the lab experience.  Their grades may be impacted only if they do not master the agreed-upon learning objectives and expectations.

Q. When does the law go into effect?

A. The law was passed on January 5, 2006 and was effective as of that date.

Q. Does the law apply to elective courses?

A. The law does not distinguish between elective courses and required courses. Students and parents should be informed if any of the defined activities are planned in any course.