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Update: Bully Teacher Censured

Written by PETA | April 28, 2011

Update: The Collier County School District has officially agreed with PETA and the family of the harassed student, saying that Mary Ellen Alexander “acted insensitively and inappropriately.” The school board reassigned her to another school, is requiring her to be retrained, and has placed a disciplinary letter in her district and state files.

The district is also considering replacing animal dissection with modern, humane alternatives, which PETA has offered to supply. 


The following was originally posted on February 22, 2011.

School bullying usually involves a student making another student miserable. But in a new twist, a Florida teacher reportedly bullied and taunted a student simply for exercising her legal right to choose not to dissect a frog. Now the Florida State Board of Education, prompted by PETA’s call for the termination of the teacher, has opened an investigation.

dan zen/cc by 2.0

According to the seventh grader and her mother, the North Naples Middle School teacher snuck up behind the student, shoved a bag of dead frogs in her face, and then dropped the bag on her desk. When the student began to cry, the teacher laughed at her in front of her classmates. The teacher then allegedly told students in other classes that if they tried to opt out of dissection, they would be sent to the principal’s office for disciplinary action.

Not only did this teacher apparently violate students’ right under Florida law to opt out of dissection, her reported behavior also may have violated the School Board of Collier County’s policy against bullying and harassment and the Florida Department of Education’s Code of Ethics. North Naples Middle School’s principal initially told the student’s mother that she would not be taking any action—the school district and state board of education stepped in only after PETA and the media became involved.   

We are calling on school district and state officials to remove this teacher from her post and revoke her state educator’s certificate if the student’s report is corroborated. We have also offered to buy the school modern, humane computer programs in order to allow the school to replace dissection entirely.

In this violent world, students’ feelings of empathy for animals are a virtue that should be fostered, not belittled, by their educators and mentors.  

Written by Michelle Sherrow

Commenting is closed.
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    Only the weakest individuals are aroused by mutilating animals, dead or alive. You definitely got your name right, TROLL!

  • Apache Troll says:

    I’m glad my school didn’t give us an option when they told us to cut open a dead sheep’s eyeball. lol I loved watching the juices ooze out as I cut through it, and felt the lifeless eyelash and eyelid rub against my knuckle.

  • Kalama Halamezad says:

    As a university researcher and educator, I find this behavior appalling. First, most of these students have little interest in pursuing careers in biological sciences, so sacrificing animals for this purpose is pointless. Second, that teacher should realize this and respect any students who wish to abstain from the practice. It would be different if they were students pursuing careers in research and if there were a purpose greater than taking an animal apart just to see what it looks like, but that’s just not the case here. Plus this teacher shows total lack of respect for her student–relocation and “retraining” are far to small of a punishment for bullying and belittling a student for their ethical views.

  • Courtney says:

    That really saddens me what happened to that student.I am glad that the teacher was censured for what she did.Too bad she didn’t lose her job over this.She deserves it.

  • Jennenny says:

    I definitely feel for this student. In middle school, I refused to dissect a frog (I even had a note from my mom), but the teacher told me I would fail if I didn’t participate. I sat with my back turned to the “experiment” in protest, and one of the other students cut off the frog’s leg and stuck it in my binder. When I found it, I left the room because I was going to vomit, and when I returned, I faced disciplinary action. However, the kid who stuck the frog’s severed limb in my binder, in full view of the teacher suffered no consequences. The teacher refused to even address the issue. I love teachers, and there are plenty of wonderful educators out there, but we all need to work together to make it clear to those who don’t get it: this is not acceptable behavior. Please, explain to me: what exactly was I supposed to learn from this experience?

  • Cordyceps says:

    Personally, I’d fire her for any one of those violations. Maybe that’s just me though. Also, seems like the student has a decent case of her own if she wanted to sue the teacher herself. I know I can think of a few different theories. Well kudos to a brave kid.

  • Rev. Meg Schramm says:

    This teacher seems to have control issues. As a frequent volunteer for various organizations I frequently find that the individual charged with running the event in which I am working has control issues. As a person who grew up in a family where the women all seemed to have control issues I learned how to deal with it by just doing what I was told to do, but in the case of this student, when the teacher shoved the bag of dead frogs in my face, I would not have cried. I would have taken the bag of frogs, left the classroom, and gone to the principal’s office. I would have reported what had just occurred. How do I know what I would have done? Because the same thing happened to me when I was in high school, although it was done to me by a substitute teacher, not my regular teacher who in spite of using dissection in her biology class never forced a student to dissect an animal. When this person began berating me for not wanting to dissect a frog (which was alive, by the way, we were expected to kill them as well as dissect them) I picked up my frog, marched out of the room, and reported the incident to the principal. The next day we had a different, much nicer substitute and when the regular teacher returned the following Monday, she told the class that dissection would no longer be done in the classroom. This being before computers in the classroom, the school began using 3-D models to teach anatomy and biology. My frog, by the way, ended up being the most spoiled amphibian in creation, with his own habitat in a huge fishtank and all the insects he could eat, purchased from a local pet supply store which did not sell the actual animals. It was ahead of its time.

  • Aneliese says:

    What a terrible teacher! That student should be proud of standing up for what she believes in.

  • Kristin says:

    What a generous offer, I hope they accept. I also hope that they fire this teacher. No educator should be this compassionless and inconsiderate of a students own rights and feelings.

  • ben says:

    that teacher should be fired

  • Marine5068 says:

    Great post of the student who cares about animals. That teacher is guilty of bullying and threatening in this case, in my opinion. We need to stop this “killing is ok” mentality.

  • Gala says:

    This is just a crazy story. What kind of person would do this to a child, let alone a student they’re supposed to be building up into a solid member of humanity? This teacher should definately be reprimanded severly.

  • BB says:

    Take the biotch down. No doubt is a teacher with tenure that should have been gone a long time ago. There are way too many good teachers to allow this woman to continue teaching.

  • Rachel says:

    That teacher made my list. >=(

  • Andrea Matthews says:

    Clearly this teacher needs to be reassigned to duties that avoid contact with students until an investigation takes place. It would seem likely that this type of behavior is not an isolated incident. The local board of education would be appropriate in recommending a mental health evaluation for this teacher not only for the sake and safety of the students but for the teacher herself if treatment is warranted. This behavior may be deeper than this incident and evaluations by supervisory educators and mental health professionals are in order.

  • melmac says:

    If she is fired, it’s because of the code of ethics. It will have nothing to do with the decision to dissect frogs or not. Additionally, if the student didn’t sign a waiver and didn’t opt out then says this, it can be seen as a way to cut class. I’ve had teachers do worse admittedly. The teacher however most likely will be suspended, but not fired for the action. I would encourage you and others however to not try to do more than send a letter encouraging them to investigate further though, and NOT offer to buy the programs. Why you may ask? – if you push too hard and follow through on the offer, the teacher will have grounds to counter sue the board if she’s fired for them being coerced (in a way) by an outside source to fire her for her actions. Additionally, offering to pay for humane alternatives can be seen as a bribe to fire the teacher, and that can be grounds to sue for wrongful termination – especially in this economy.