Teens’ Boasting of Beating an Opossum to Death Prompts PETA Empathy Curricula for Dubuque Schools

For Immediate Release:
February 27, 2024

Sara Groves 202-483-7382

Dubuque, Iowa

Following reports that two local teens beat an opossum to death and proudly posted a video of their violent act on social media, TeachKind—PETA’s humane education division—sent Western Dubuque Community School District Superintendent Dan Butler and Dubuque Community Schools Superintendent Amy Hawkins urgent letters today, along with kindness-to-animals educational materials, including Empathy Now, a guide to preventing violence by young people, and Challenging Assumptions, which helps students examine discrimination and other social justice issues. TeachKind is also offering class sets of Animalkind: Remarkable Discoveries About Animals and Revolutionary New Ways to Show Them Compassion by PETA President Ingrid Newkirk to the districts’ high schools.

collage of AnimalKind cover and Teachkinds Empathy now coverThe disturbing video shows the teens beating the opossum with metal folding chairs and at one point maneuvering a chair like a guillotine.

“When young people feel it’s enviable to beat a wild animal to death in a quest for social media notoriety, it’s clear how critical it is to be taught empathy from an early age,” says PETA Senior Director of Youth Programs Marta Holmberg. “Compassion can be cultivated, and TeachKind stands ready to help Dubuque schools teach their students that every sentient being, whether an opossum or a classmate, deserves empathy and respect.”

Sandy Hook Promise includes cruelty to animals on its “10 Critical Warning Signs of Violence” list, and research shows that approximately 43% of school shooters first committed acts of cruelty against animals—so animal abusers potentially pose a serious threat to communities at large. TeachKind resources are easy to integrate into schools’ existing curricula to help prevent future violence.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—points out that Every Animal Is Someone and offers free Empathy Kits for people who need a lesson in kindness. TeachKind offers free presentations, lessons, and other resources to help teachers add compassion to their curricula. For more information, please visit TeachKind.org or follow the group on Facebook or Instagram.

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