On April 15, 2009, two students at Hawthorne High School, in Alachua County, Florida outside Gainesville, bashed a live chicken to the ground,
videotaped the episode, and posted it on the Internet. Meanwhile, students inside the school tortured chickens to death in an orgy of classroom
cruelty, including decapitation and neck “popping,” under the eye of Future Farmers of America teacher, Allen Shaw. The YouTube video shows
Robert Gordon bashing a chicken, while Patrick Dougan says “Rip him apart” and “This is animal cruelty.” They laugh as the
chicken flops to death on the ground.
Dougan and Gordon were arrested and charged with animal cruelty, and UPC president Karen Davis was set to testify at their trial, but the charges were
reluctantly dropped by the State Attorney’s Office on technicalities. The video that sparked the law enforcement investigation can be seen at www.upc-online.org/hawthorne/.
Fueled by this episode, UPC president Karen Davis and executive director of Humane Educators Reaching Out (HERO), Susan Hargreaves, filed a Petition for Agency Action with the Florida Department of Education on March 9, 2011. The Petition, prepared by animal law attorney Adam
P. Karp, seeks “promulgation of new or clarified rules for humane treatment of animals and banning animal slaughter in K-12 classrooms pursuant
to the statutory mandates of Florida education law.” In a press release, Karp explains that while “Florida’s progressive educational
system seeks to safeguard the humane treatment of animals,” the abuse of chickens at Hawthorne High School shows “systemic failure by
educational leadership” to implement the law, and justifies the petitioners’ demand for discipline of former Hawthorne High School
Principal Robert Craig and FFA teacher Allen Shaw.
“Bullying and violence are rampant in Florida schools,” says HERO director Susan Hargreaves, who conducts humane education programs in
Florida classrooms. “The Hawthorne High School killings are a direct and dangerous contradiction to the work of all humane educators,” she
says, noting that pigs, chickens and other animals are used in Florida schools in ways that create an attitude of cruelty and disrespect.
To publicize the Petition and the issues involved, UPC president Karen Davis, HERO director Susan Hargreaves, and attorney Adam Karp hosted a
Rally with Florida activists at the Orange County Courthouse on March 31 in Orlando. “We want an end to animal abuse in Florida schools and
implementation of Florida’s humane education laws,” said UPC president Karen Davis in a press release on March 24. “The orgy of
cruelty in Allen Shaw’s class led directly to the torture of a living creature outside the classroom. Instead of learning to be kind to animals,
students were taught to be cruel. This is not what students should be learning from their teachers.” The 79-page Petition can be read at www.upc-online.org/fldoepetition.
Urge Florida officials in charge of public schools to implement Florida’s humane education laws and prohibit the harming and killing of animals
in Florida classrooms. Implore them to ensure that no situation akin to the animal cruelty and butchery conducted at Hawthorne High School takes place
again in a Florida school. Request a written reply to your concerns.
ERIC J. SMITH
Commissioner of Department of Education
Office of the Commissioner
Turlington Bldg., Suite 1514
325 West Gaines Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399
W. DANIEL BOYD, JR. & BOARD MEMBERS
Superintendent of Schools
Alachua County Public Schools
620 E. University Avenue
Gainesville, FL 32601
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com
Hawthorne Middle/High School Principal
Hawthorne High School
21403 SE 69th Avenue
Hawthorne, FL 32640