‘Prank’ Involving Dead Animals Prompts Calls for Humane Education

PETA's Humane-Education Division Encourages Zero-Tolerance Anti-Bullying Policy That Includes Cruelty to Animals

For Immediate Release:
May 8, 2015

Contact:
Sophia Charchuk 202-483-7382

TeachKind—PETA’s educational division—sent a letter today to the superintendent of Monroe County schools calling on him to include cruelty to animals in the district’s zero-tolerance and anti-bullying policies in the wake of reports that more than 100 students, a school resource officer, and the principal at Sequoyah High School were involved in a gruesome “prank.” The body of an opossum was taken onto school grounds, along with hay, urine, and ketchup—which were strewn across school classrooms, halls, and bathrooms. Goldfish were also flushed down toilets, while live chickens and crickets were released into the school.

TeachKind and PETA—whose mottos read, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—have also sent letters to each school in the district offering copies of their “Abuse: Report It if You See It” poster, along with free teaching materials and suggested lesson plans in the hope of preventing future abuse.

“As schools across the country face an epidemic of bullying, it’s important to set a standard and let students know unequivocally that cruelty and insensitivity of all kinds is wrong,” says PETA Director of Youth Outreach and Campaigns Marta Holmberg. “TeachKind is asking Monroe County schools to teach empathy for all living beings and encourage young people to report abuse when they see it.”

As TeachKind points out in its letter, criminal-profile studies show that many people who abuse animals continue to harm others—making early enforcement action even more crucial. According to leading mental-health professionals and law-enforcement agencies, perpetrators of violent acts against animals are often repeat offenders who pose a serious threat to the community at large.

For more information, please visit TeachKind.org.

TeachKind’s letter to the Monroe County superintendant follows.

Dear Superintendent Tim Blankenship:

My name is Nina, and I’m writing from TeachKind, PETA’s humane-education division, which works with thousands of teachers nationwide to bring compassion to the classroom. We’ve heard about a disturbing “prank” that involved chickens, a dead opossum, fish, and other animals at Sequoyah High School and have read that more than 100 students as well as some school leaders were involved. We’re writing to urge you to prevent future incidents like this one by adding cruelty to animals to your district’s zero-tolerance policy.

As schools across the country face an epidemic of bullying, it’s important to set a standard and let your students know unequivocally that cruelty of all kinds is wrong. As you may know, medical experts and top law-enforcement officials agree: The link between cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence is undeniable. In fact, the FBI uses reports of animal abuse when gauging the threat potential of suspected and known criminals and classifies cruelty to animals as a Group A felony, and the American Psychiatric Association identifies it as one of the diagnostic criteria for conduct disorders. Numerous serial and mass murderers, including many school shooters, “began” by abusing animals, and animal abuse often coincides with domestic violence.

The prevention of cruelty can start in the classroom. By adding cruelty to animals to your districtwide zero-tolerance policy, Monroe County can lead the way in educating young people on why it’s not OK to bully those who are weaker than they are—and that’s a lesson that helps students grow into productive, compassionate adults.

TeachKind is here to help! I’d love to send your schools a free anti-violence poster from our youth division. The poster encourages students to report cruelty to animals whenever they discover it, for everyone’s sake—and displaying it in a prominent location could help save a life. Our staff is always available to send free materials, suggest free lesson plans from TeachKind.org, and even host free classroom presentations with your students via Skype. We’re here to assist you in any way that we can in order to ensure that your efforts to teach kindness are successful.

On behalf of our more than 3 million members and supporters worldwide, thousands of whom proudly reside in Tennessee, we thank you for your consideration. I hope to hear from you soon.

Warm regards,

Nina Kahn
TeachKind Coordinator
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

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“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