An Open Letter to Tamira Ci Thayne
March 14, 2016
I find it fitting that the first post on my blog should be in response to an issue that has grabbed the attention of many people in Culpeper County and especially at CCHS. Over the last several weeks, a petition calling for the termination of cat dissections has been circulating and has accumulated over 100,000 signatures. My biggest complaint about the petition is not the issue it is fighting, but that is is vilifying my high school and its faculty. The email I wrote to Ms. Thayne is provided below in its entirety.
Remember that inaction is a form of action. Failing to fight for something you believe in is just like fighting against it. In the coming days, there may be student-organized campaigns for writing letters to the editor and potentially more. I encourage everyone to use their talents to fight and stand up for what they believe in.
Authors note: Since the letter was originally written, the URL of the blog has since changed to simply be kylelaker.com. The original text of the letter has been kept unmodified.
Dear Ms. Thayne,
I have a great appreciation for those who put efforts into grassroots political movements. Indeed, any effort to get others involved in political or societal change is admirable. Even more admirable is when these issues are something that you feel passionately about. Despite the respectable parts of your petition, it is important to realize that there are proper and improper ways of going about things. Unfortunately, you have handled the issue of the cat dissection entirely incorrectly.
One fact, which has been commonly pointed out is that the human anatomy course at Culpeper County High School is an optional, honors-level, elective course. It is explicitly mentioned in the syllabus, provided to students and parents at the beginning of the course, that cat dissection is a part of the class. Additionally, an alternative assignment is available. Based on the text of your petition and the statements you have made in the NBC29 and Culpeper Star-Exponent articles, it is not clear that this was opted for.
Explanations of curricula may be requested from course instructors, department instructional team leaders, and in the event that those explanations are insufficient or the faculty are not available, there are many people at the school board office capable of communicating with students. These people and their contact information may be found at http://www.culpeperschools.org/pages/CulpeperCPS/Departments___Programs/Curriculum/Additional_Curriculum_Links/Instruction_Personnel. Had you contacted any of these employees of CCPS, you would be aware that the cats dissected are cats that have been euthanized from shelters. If they were not used for science courses, the bodies of these cats would be dumped in landfills. Additionally, cat dissection is a common practice across Virginia and nationwide.
The Culpeper County School Board has explicit policies for challenging learning materials and curricula. All CCSB policies are available at http://www.culpeperschools.org/pages/CulpeperCPS/Departments___Programs/School_Board/School_Board_Policies. These policies specify that if unsatisfactory resolutions are met with the course instructor, a challenge may be made to the building principal. At this time a review committee convenes which makes a decision. If the complainant does not agree with the decision of this committee, an appeal may be made to the superintendent (or his designee), and then to the school board. Based upon your statements to the media, the text of your petitions, and the minutes of CCSB meetings since November, this policy was not followed.
It is unacceptable to have bypassed these policies in your desire for change. In doing this, you have used your one-sided petition to shine a negative light on one of the greatest communities of which I have ever been a member. The faculty and staff of CCPS are some of the most spectacular people I have ever met. The poor reputation you have started to bring upon this school district is insulting.
Therefore, I urge you to publicly apologize to the students, faculty, and staff of CCPS whose reputation has been tarnished. Additionally, I demand that you cease promoting your petition until you follow proper CCSB policies to challenge the curriculum. Until you have satisfactorily done both of these, I will fight against you and your petition with every resource at my disposal and I can guarantee that many other current and former students will as well. Culpeper County High School is a proud community that will never allow itself to be intimidated by an online petition that violates due process.
P.S. Due to the public nature of your petition, I feel that any responses or rebuttals should be public as well. Therefore, after I have emailed this to you, it will be posted publicly on my blog at http://blog.kylelaker.com