Shark Hung From School Rafters Prompts PETA Push for Empathy Lessons

Published by Sara Oliver.

Update (May 12, 2022): The students reportedly responsible for hanging a gutted shark from the rafters of their Florida high school will likely not face criminal charges. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) first believed that the shark may have been a protected species, but photo review by experts found that the animal was a bull shark, a species not protected under Florida law. While the FWC won’t be pressing charges, the students are facing in-district consequences in line with a Level 4 offense, which could mean suspension, expulsion, transfer to an alternative school, referral to mental health services, and/or criminal charges. Read on for the details about the misguided apparent “senior prank” and TeachKind’s response.

Originally published May 10, 2022:

Following reports that a group of students from Ponte Vedra High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, hung a dead shark from the rafters as an alleged “senior prank,” TeachKind—PETA’s humane education division—rushed a letter to St. Johns County School District Superintendent Tim Forson, offering elementary school and secondary school kindness-to-animals curricula along with copies of “Empathy Now,” a guide to preventing youth violence against animals.

As a species, sharks may be older than the dinosaurs and trees, but they face modern-day pressure to survive from the deadliest predator of all: humans. After all, it’s humans’ addiction to fish flesh that kills more than 100 million sharks and billions of other sea animals annually. This reported high school “prank” shows that students at Ponte Vedra need an urgent crash course in opposing speciesism.

Shark Who Died for Alleged ‘Senior Prank’ May Have Been a Protected Species

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reportedly believes the shark who was killed may have been a sandbar shark, a protected species in Florida. If the shark is determined to be a protected species, the misguided students allegedly responsible for the “prank” will likely face punishment beyond what’s detailed in their school’s disciplinary code.

Cruelty Is No Laughing Matter—Empathy Needs to Be Taught in Schools

Florida law mandates that teachers provide instruction in “[k]indness to animals.” TeachKind’s offer to host free, empathy-building virtual presentations would help the district meet this requirement—and help cultivate kind kids.

Research shows that 43% of perpetrators of school massacres first committed acts of cruelty against animals, so juvenile animal abusers potentially pose a serious threat to the community at large.

TeachKind Encourages Kindness Inside and Outside the Classroom

TeachKind’s free secondary school curriculum, “Challenging Assumptions,” focuses on social justice—and its elementary school curriculum, “Share the World,” is perfect for teaching young students the Golden Rule. Invite a teacher you know to visit to learn how they can start teaching compassion for all animals today:

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind