Pennsylvania School Threatens to Fail Student for Not Taking Part in Disturbing Song About Killing Animals: PETA Intervenes
For Immediate Release:
December 15, 2018
Megan Wiltsie 202-483-7382
Ellwood City, Pa. – After learning that students at Lincoln High School in Ellwood City are being forced to participate in a parody Christmas song rife with references to cruelty to animals at a choir performance tomorrow—and that the school even reportedly threatened a student with a failing grade if he refused to participate—TeachKind, PETA’s humane-education division, sent an urgent letter to the school’s principal yesterday.
In the letter, the group urges him to cancel the performance of the song, pointing out that verses such as “shot that blasted [partridge] … and … gently wrung the necks of … turtle doves” normalize acts of violence and desensitize students to the suffering of others.
“Words matter, and the language in this song could very well affect the way these impressionable young people go on to treat animals and each other,” says peta2 Associate Director of Youth Campaigns Rachelle Owen. “TeachKind is calling on Lincoln High School to live up to its responsibility of fostering empathy and respect in its students and pull the plug on this cruel ‘carol.'”
Just this month, TeachKind—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”— encouraged people to consider the power of words through a thought-provoking campaign aiming to end the use of idioms connoting cruelty to animals.
For more information, please visit PETA.org/TeachKind.
TeachKind’s letter to Lincoln High School Principal Kirk Lape follows.
December 14, 2018
Dear Principal Lape,
I’m writing from TeachKind, PETA’s humane-education division, which works with thousands of teachers nationwide to bring compassion into the classroom. We’re contacting you after having received complaints from the parents of a Lincoln High School student whose Dec. 16 choir performance is scheduled to feature song lyrics that trivialize killing animals. I’m sure you understand that words carry meaning and can send mixed signals to students about the relationship between humans and animals as well as normalize violence. For these reasons, we urge you to require that Sunday’s performance go forward without the song in question.
Because you’re a leader in education, we encourage you and your staff to address anti-animal rhetoric with a sense of urgency. With bullying and violence being so pervasive in our schools and communities, we should take every opportunity to drive home a message of compassion. Just this past summer in Pennsylvania, a 15-year-old was charged with cruelty to animals after allegedly beating a chick against a fence. And in 2014, an 11-year-old Pennsylvania child was accused of beating and nearly killing a cat by hitting her against a guardrail and trying to throw her into a river. These song lyrics may seem harmless to some, but allowing their message to be sent to students could have far-reaching and destructive repercussions. As mental-health and law-enforcement experts well know, people who demonstrate a blatant lack of empathy and disregard for life could be on a dangerous path that will only get worse if not corrected.
The way we talk about animals must change to reflect a more modern understanding of them. You can use this opportunity to encourage your students to think about the language that they use and how it might perpetuate negative attitudes toward others, human and nonhuman. Teaching students to use inclusive language can cultivate positive relationships among all beings and help end the epidemic of youth violence toward animals.
Given the current focus on the national bullying crisis and its often tragic results, it’s both vital and timely that a standard of compassion be set and that students understand that harming any sentient being is wrong. The prevention of violence should be a priority in schools, which is why Pennsylvania legislation recommends that students receive lessons in kindness, empathy, and compassion.
On behalf of our more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide, many of whom proudly reside in Pennsylvania, we thank you for your consideration. I hope to hear from you soon.
Lisbet Chiriboga, M.S. Ed.
TeachKind, PETA’s Humane-Education Division