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Please Speak Out for Fish Used in Cruel School Project: Sample Letter

October 15, 2011


Apparently hoping to convey the immense responsibility of parenting, Burke High School in Omaha, Nebraska, has assigned child-development class students their own goldfish to keep alive throughout bustling days. Defenseless, these docile animals have no opportunity to escape the bizarre and stressful ordeal. As if being jostled about and subjected to loud noises, bright lights, and threatening sights and sensations weren’t bad enough, some fish are reportedly being dropped or shaken in their containers.

Fish are complex, sensitive beings who have personalities, communicate with each other, form bonds, and even grieve when family members die. We’ve asked administrators to develop an alternative strategy for this course, rather than using live animals, but to no avail. We need your help now! Please join us in urging the school to replace this cruel assignment.

Send polite comments to the below contacts.  You may use the sample text provided or compose your own letter.


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Dr. Deborah Frison
Burke High School

Charles Peterson
Curriculum Specialist
Family and Consumer Sciences
Burke High School

Nancy Burkhart
Family and Consumer Science Instructor
Burke High School

Andrea Burton
Family and Consumer Science Instructor
Burke High School

Cammi Jager
Family and Consumer Science Instructor
Burke High School


Dear Principal Frison, Curriculum Specialist Peterson, and Family and Consumer Science Instructors Burkhart, Burton, and Jager:

It has come to my attention that you have assigned using goldfish as “materials” in your child-development courses, and I am respectfully requesting you discontinue with this idea for now and future classes.

Please allow me to elaborate. Fish are complex animals who experience suffering and joy, and who also have the capacity to nurture complex relationships and display grief upon separation. Furthermore, despite an almost-universal apathy towards their sensitivity, fish indeed experience pain and react negatively towards stressful situations including loud noises, lights, enclosures, and disturbed environments.

While many understand the importance of teaching child development, using non-human living organisms as alternatives to human children does not adequately convey species-species legitimacy with relation to such a critical area of learning.

Please take this opportunity to teach appropriate child-development courses by using non-living alternatives that will not be abused and killed for classroom folly. Millions of students benefit from a curriculum that does not include animal cruelty, and I hope you will demonstrate a commitment to protect rather than harm animals, especially in the core area of learning where your practice will be mimicked rather than your words.

I know your time is limited and I thank you for your attention to this urgent issue.




Only lesson
Here being taught
That goldfish
Have no value
And their lives
Are for naught :(
Instead of specimens
Housed in glass
Start an empathy class

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

One Comment leave one →
  1. Karen Lyons kalmenson permalink
    October 16, 2011 4:38 am

    Only lesson
    Here being taught
    That goldfish
    Have no value
    And their lives
    Are for naught 😦
    Instead of specimens
    Housed in glass
    Start an empathy class


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