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Retaliation over cat dissections? A teacher sues Newport-Mesa Unified




Circa 1960: A teacher and a group of pupils performing the dissection of an animal during a biology class at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.
Circa 1960: A teacher and a group of pupils performing the dissection of an animal during a biology class at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.
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A lawsuit was filed against Newport-Mesa Unified School District by one of its teachers who alleges that the district retaliated against her for opposing cat dissections in anatomy classes. Karen Coyne, a vegan and advisor for Newport Harbor High School’s animal advocacy group, believes that she was transferred to Costa Mesa High School because she spoke out against the dissections, and her lawsuit claims that her free speech rights have been violated.

Part of her dispute focuses on an email from then-Principal of Newport Harbor, Michael Vossen, claiming that cat dissections were necessary to learn surgical skills. Coyne’s dispute with the email arises over her suggestion that alternative assignments should have been provided for students who did not want to participate in the cat dissections.

The lawsuit was filed on September 9, and Coyne is seeking a year of salary and benefits as well as unspecified damages for emotional stress and suffering. Do you think teachers should be able to criticize school or district policies? Should schools take student preferences into account for how they are taught skills? Is there merit to Coyne’s lawsuit?

Guests:

Pam Osenkowski, Director of Science Programs, National Anti-Vivisection Association - founded in 1929, NAVS is an educational organization whose ultimate goal is the elimination of animal use in product testing, education and biomedical research.

Jaclyn Reeves-Pepin, Executive Director, National Association of Biology Teacheres. She is a biologist by training.