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Archive for Saturday, March 2, 2002

Teacher criticized for planning to feed puppies to boa constrictor

March 2, 2002

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— A teacher's plan to feed puppies to a boa constrictor during a high school biology class has drawn criticism from some parents and students in this southeast Kansas town.

Bluestem High School principal Dale Harper said there are also campaigns to have biology teacher Matthew Patton removed from his job. But Harper said there were no violations and the issue was resolved without harming any puppies.

Patton, who keeps two boa constrictors in an aquarium-type box in his classroom, sometimes feeds the snakes during class so students can see how the snakes can eat things larger than they are.

Patton did not immediately return a phone message left at the school Friday seeking comment.

The puppies were donated to the school by Davy Harkins, a school board member who operates the El Dorado Animal Clinic. Harkins puts animals to sleep for the local pound, which he has done for more than 20 years.

Some years he has put as many as 1,000 animals to sleep, he said.

"I see how many puppies go unwanted every week," Harkins said. "I hate to see any life wasted."

So Harkins saw the dogs being fed to the snake as something productive and gave Patton three mixed-breed puppies Tuesday night to use for that purpose.

Harper said Patton approached what he intended to do from a scientific perspective.

"I'm not sure that he considered the sensitivity of some people when it involved what's considered a pet," said Harper, a former biology teacher. "Very few people have a problem with seeing a rat go."

Harper was told about Patton's plan for the puppies Wednesday morning by his school enforcement officer, who had received a complaint from a parent.

Harper said that he asked Patton not to feed the puppies to the snakes, and that Patton immediately agreed. He said he saw a few students who were crying and upset about the plan.

"When you have soft, cuddly puppies ... there are people who get real concerned," he said.

The puppies have been returned to Harkins, who is trying to find a home for them.

Patton has been a teacher at the school for about five years, and there has never been any serious problems with his teaching, Harper said.

"I think he does a good job for us," Harper said. "This just happened to be a very sensitive issue."

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