In Plant City, Florida, yesterday Jane Bender–a local high school teacher–came under criticism for killing two baby rabbits with a shovel as her class watched back on February 12.
Excerpt below from WFTV News Article: Teacher Under Fire For Killing Baby Rabbits As Class Watched
Hillsborough County sheriff's spokesman Lt. Rod Reder said the rabbits were born in Bender's agriculture lab last month. Two died at birth, and the mother rejected the other two, pushing both out of the outdoor pen in the school's agricultural complex soon after they were born.
One was found covered with fire ants, and the other was lying in a water trough.
Bender told investigators that on Feb. 12 she asked one student to dig a hole and explained to the class that the rabbits could not survive after being rejected by their mother.
She then placed all four in the hole and, in view of the class, killed the two live rabbits by dismembering them with a shovel, Reder said. The rabbits were about the size of chicken eggs.
It wasn't clear how close the students, age from 15 to 18, were when Bender euthanized the animals.
One student told investigators Bender asked the class to help her bury the rabbits, but they refused, Reder said.
The babies were sick and although euthanizing them was most likely the correct course of action, doing so in full view of high school students was not incredibly bright.
Is there any sort of precedent? Well sort of…
It was not that long ago (say 30 years ago?) that highschool students were required to dissect frogs whose brains had been “pithed” so that their internal organs would continue to function during the dissection. However, the “pithing” process was supposed to have been done out of sight of the students. Ultimately this practice was outlawed as cruel to the animal, and nowadays only dead frogs are dissected in highschool.
Certainly children who grow up on farms see animals killed at younger ages than these students. But in such cases, it is the decision their parents make, not their teachers.
No doubt the teacher was doing what she thought best at the time, since the animals were suffering and were going to die. But she should have chosen to euthanize them more discreetly. The news article does not make clear whether or not she warned her students what was going to happen, giving them time to walk away if they did not want to witness the killings, but the implication is that she did not.
Perhaps Ms. Bender felt she was teaching the kids an important lesson, but she could have taught that lesson without destroying the animals with students watching. She could have explained what needed to be done and then taken the rabbits out of sight somewhere and performed the act. Such a dramatic life lesson is probably better left to parents, or college.
When I was a young boy I saw my dog hit by a car and watched my Dad hurriedly wrap a blanket around the dying animal and rush it off to the vet to no avail. I had a number of pets that died throughout the years (birds, guinea pigs, hamsters, goldfish) and each time my parents helped me deal with the resulting feelings. I am grateful to them for that. Their seemingly endless compassion taught me much.
Do I think the kids will be permanently scarred or turn into delinquents? No, of course not. Do I think this teacher should be fired or criminally charged? No. I believe Ms. Bender's actions were both well-intentioned and inappropriate, and she should be spoken to in order to ensure this doesn't occur again.