CHS student cries "fowl" over project
By Jessica LeDuc
A school project had Concordia High School student Whitney Hillman crying fowl earlier this week.
The project, in the high school's Animal Science and Food Production class, was dubbed "the broiler project" by instructor Nate Hamilton. The purpose being, he said, to teach students where their food comes from by raising chickens and then processing them.
Students in Hamilton's class each chose a chick, and were responsible for feeding and caring for it for the following six weeks. Hamilton said students were required to track how much food each chicken ate, how much weight it gained, and how much it cost to care for it. At the end of the project, students were required to make a presentation on the project, outlining what they've learned throughout the semester.
Rather than process her chicken at the end of the class, Hillman put the chicken in her purse and ran away from school. Her chicken rescue landed her in in-school suspension for two days.
Two aspects of the project Hillman didn’t agree with were the fact that students were required to participate in the project without permission from parents, and the dispatchment–or slaughtering–of the animals.
"Permission slips are widely used within school systems," Hillman said. "History classes are big on this because we watch R-rated movies (because of their blood, gore and violence).
"What is involved in chicken slaughtering? Blood, gore and violence. So I think that's a pretty good reason for a permission slip."
Hillman said parents should have been informed of the project, because they may have not wanted their children to participate.
"Some parents might object to this altogether. Maybe they don't want their children to have to experience this, or perhaps they are a vegetarian family and don't believe in the slaughtering of animals for food," she said. "Whatever the reason, like it or not, parents do have a say."
Hamilton said the project did not require permission slips, but that regular biology labs did not require permission slips, either.
"I don't see how this is any different," he said.
Hillman said that at the beginning of the semester, the students were told they might be participating in the broiler project, depending upon whether funding could be obtained. According to Hillman, when the baby chicks arrived in class, it was too late to transfer out of the class.
But, Hamilton said he told students about the project at the beginning of the class, and everyone knew what it would entail.
"It wasn't sprung on anybody," he said. "All anyone had to do was say they didn't want to participate. I thought it'd be a neat project.
"I had a majority of the students and even parents say this was a cool project, and they want to know if I'm doing another."
USD 333 Superintendent of Schools Bev Mortimer said she knew about the class project, and thought Hamilton was trying to give his students a hands-on experience.
"He was trying to make it real," Mortimer said. "This is agriculture, not just something you read about in a book."
Mortimer did say that perhaps the project and what it entailed should be added to the class course description.
"It never hurts. Anything a teacher thinks is going to be controversial, the parents should be informed," she said. "I encourage all of my teachers in any class to let parents know if they think something might be offensive or controversial.
"But knowing the class and the intentions behind it, I don't think I'd ask him to do anything different."
Hamilton said his goal was to educate his students with a "real life" situation – to show them where the chicken on their dinner plates came from.
"This is a real world thing," he said. "This is livestock and poultry production, and that's kind of the way I'm teaching it."
Once the chickens were of an appropriate age, students went through the process of dressing each of them. Hamilton said students were each given jobs – from dispatchment to packaging and freezing the meat, and every step in-between.
"I never forced anyone to cut throats," Hamilton said. "We raised those chickens to process them, not to make them pets."
Hillman said she did, in fact, get attached to her chicken, which she named "Chicklett."
"My chicken has become a loved one, no matter how stupid that sounds, he has," she said. "I have, in fact, become attached to Chicklett, and could not participate in his death."
While Hillman may have wanted to save her chicken from death, Hamilton said that type of chicken is not meant to live more than six months.
"Broilers are genetically modified - they grow faster than their muscles develop," he said.
Because she viewed her chicken as a pet, Hillman said she could not allow him to be killed and eaten. She went into Hamilton's classroom Monday, and rescued her chicken from its cage, put it in her purse and left schoolgrounds.
"Please do not judge what I did on the grounds of stupidity and bad behavior, but on the grounds of love and empathy for another living being," Hillman said. "I have raised my chicken. I will not kill him."
Hillman said she would have rather had an alternative to the chicken slaughtering process. Dissection is a part of science classes, she said, but there is a choice to do an online version or watch, if a student wishes to not participate.
She said each student was told they must participate in some aspect of the process. Her job was to pluck the feathers from the chickens after they'd been killed and dipped in boiling water.
"Yes, it's just a chicken, but to me, it's a living being and has just as much right to live as we do," Hillman said. "There is a choice in dissection, why not in the slaughtering of an animal you raised?"
Hamilton said that if Hillman had approached him at any point during the class with her concerns, he would have made allowances for her.
"She never approached me to do an alternative project," he said. "I think she had plenty of time to opt out. If she had had that much of a problem with it, we could have worked something out."
Hillman said if given the same situation, she would do the same thing. While she didn't think Hamilton should stop the project, she suggested that the class description clearly point out that chickens would be slaughtered.
"I'll gladly accept any punishment you give me, but I will not apologize for what I have done," she said. "I will not regret it, and I would definitely do it again if I had to.
"I did take the chicken, but please, all I ask, is that you understand why, not that you agree, but understand and respect my decision."
"This is not about whether or not chickens should be filled for food, but about how they are killed for food. Mr. Hamilton got that part wrong. K.S.A. statutes on animal cruelty and animal slaughtering were not followed. In addition to that, Whitney happened to become close to Chicklett so she did not want to see him mistreated any more than she wanted to slaughter him. I'm still proud of the my niece Whitney. You go Girl!"
"Justin Miller...WoW is right. You cannot spell and you cannot formulate a well written statement. You just made your school look almost as bad as Nate. The world is laughing at all of you. I keep finding comments from your local students and citizens that are just, well, uneducated. Mr. Mortimer, it's interesting that you have the same last name as the school superintendant. How embarrassing that you have to speak for her and you can't formulate a well structured sentence either. Again, Whitney is the best product of that school and that town. All you have to say for yourselves is she should have opted out. No one responds to the parental permission comments or has a sound reason for the death project. I guess if you have brainwashed a couple of uneducated students to argue your point that's probably better than anything Nate could compose. Oh, and the world wanted to thank you Nate for emotionally damaging that many kids in such a short period of time. Even if they say they liked to kill for you...we don't believe them. That's even more disturbing. I hope you get fired. I hope the school and the district gets sued and YES I hope your KFC closes down too...again SHAME on the Nate, the principal, superintendant...and her uneducated relative and the few brainwashed students. "
"I would like to comment on this story and the abuse that people have piled onto Nate Hamilton. For D. Muller to say that Nate has a "sociopathic personality" and "abused or killed creatures as a child", and Lisa Leach to say that this "teacher is wicked" is absurd! For anyone that knows Nate Hamilton, they know that this is so far from the truth. It doesn't matter if you agree or disagree with this class, to jump on the bandwagon of hatred and start untruths about a decent and caring teacher is pathetic! Nate Hamilton is one of the best teachers around. He has spent his careet trying to teach teenagers about learning and understanding. Most teenagers do not care about school, it is a social outlet and they can not wait until graduation. Nate wants them to learn and not just slide through their high school years. I stand behind Nate and his decisions. Bertie Denman"
Failure to Notice
"She was not forced to take this class. If she felt that strongly about it she shouldn't have taken the class. Simple as that. Our town is big in agriculture, it's a fact. Now not everyone grew up on a farm like David, or Jacinda, but I grew up knowing them both, and let me tell you they both have a plethora of compassion for everything they do. It's ridiculous that this story has gotten so blown out of proportion when the fact of the matter is, if she didn't want to do she shouldn't have taken the class. The class is geared toward students who are thinking about taking up Agriculture as a profession, not just as an easy A, fly by, no work class. Mr. Hamilton, I fully support you and the decisions you make in your classroom! "
"i just have to say one thing, and one thing only, the school district is a quality district, my cousin goes there while i go to kc washington, you guys should be thankful to have a teacher like nathan hamilton who takes the time to show kids how life really works. i used to live on a farm and i miss it very much, however, i have to say that all these people who are complaining about this teacher need to go get a life and stay outta his, and for this david mortimer guy, he seems to be the only one who has a valid point. that town does not need that kinda of negative attention so you crazy old ladies need to go back the coffee shop and talk about old men, yes i understand if you agianst killing animals, but do it in the city, not in concordia, and kaden drake, go back to whatever planet you came from and stay!"
A voice for animals
" Society already has too many factions that promote desensitization to violence and suffering in many forms. This subtle introduction to violence and animal cruelty under a banner of education is down right frightening. Teenagers do not need to be indoctrinated to accept and mimic the ills of society. I agree with commenter Maureen, this teacher has a sociopathic personality. It makes me wonder if he ever abused or killed creatures as a child. What a wonderfully brave thing Whitney did to protect this tiny defenseless creature. May she be an inspiration to those who cannot think for themselves. Jacinda wrote, "Even for a vegetarian this lesson has value for the simple fact that it gives them a view from a producers standpoint as hopefully they learn all of the aspects of what goes into the end product that they won't eat." Many Omnivores get a bit testy when they think a vegan/vegetarian life style is being "forced down their throats." In an educational setting the issue isn't promotion as much as it is serious abuse by an authority figure. For those who are interested in the violent side of food production, there are plenty of outlets at their disposal. They don't need a fascist teacher/school system to ram it into their psyches. We live in cruel world. Cruelty does not need to be taught through formal education. And by-the-way, chicken is not a health food. Humans can live perfectly fine without eating it; it is not a necessity. Society would be better taught to deny themselves then to contribute to wonton killing to feed their taste addictions. Most vegans are motivated to promote a kinder world by their food choices. They have an abhorrence to promoting killing to satisfy selfishness or cultural teaching. David Mortimer wrote, "so what ur sayin is u want KFC to close down, along with the rest of the fast food chains who serve chicken?" YES David, that would be great. "this chicken was meant to die within a certain time period, it was made for processing and eating," David, it appears that your farm chores left you deficient in compassion. Shame on a school system that demands its student to indulge in cruel violence! "Humans aren't the only species on earth, we just act like it." "
"I think the teacher has been watching too many reality shows on T.V. He should take a vacation."
"Yes, David Mortimer - not all of us are vegetarians - I am a vegan and yes - I DO want all KFC's (Killing Friendly Chickens) SHUT DOWN! Furthermore - a story about a girl's compassion is only a stupid issue to stupid people, so while YOU want it to go away, compassionate people will not let it lie. Go Whitney!"
"There is no way i would ever let my child do this . this school and teacher is wicked . this is very cruel and should of never been allowed are these people sick in the heads "
"David Mortimer: Your comment makes absolutely no sense " i promise you one thing, all u people who posted something are NOT vegitarians!!!! " If you would READ Whitney's story you would hear that her point is she didn't have to slaughter a chicken herself to learn where it came from. You act as though all meat eaters agree with you and we DON'T! I eat meat, I DON'T think you should hand teenagers knives, live birds at school...and tell them to go at it!! NO permission from parents on record..shame shame shame on you! And like it or not Whitney is a hero all around the world. We love her. Your school is alone on this. Read the papers. Watch the news. Wake up!"
"Good for her. I do not see why they have to have killing and blood in school for anything. You can learn about these things by just reading about it."
"Congradualtions Whitney, what you did was right. I'm glad you've got parents that support you, I'm just sorry that your teacher doesn't seem to understand the differences in people's thinking and respect it! We all learn at different times. Some people never learn that slaughter is inhumane or cruel and others do...but you don't pick and choose the time it hits you. And even though Chicklett is gentically bred to only live 6 months, he'll have lived those 6 months being loved and he'll die humanely."
"First I want to point out that I do see Whitney's point of view on this. However, raising livestock all of my life I have a better understanding of the feelings and thoughts that I'm guessing Whitney experienced. But along with this there becomes a point where you MUST realize that in the world we live in we have to go through the processing of livestock. I have gotten attached to many of the animals that I have raised, I spend enough time with them that they literally are apart of me and quite honestly I treat them better then I treat my self. But with this just like a human being you have to realize that they are going to die at some point, it's just that most of the time we have a say as to when an animals death is going to occur. I believe that this lesson is an awesome tool to educate students about how the real world livestock industry actually works. There are to many people in this world who simply are ignorant to how a piece of meat gets to their plate. Even for a vegetarian this lesson has value for the simple fact that it gives them a view from a producers standpoint as hopefully they learn all of the aspects of what goes into the end product that they won't eat. I hope that Mr. Hamilton will stick with this lesson plan for years to come, because I know that I most certainly would have enjoyed this new spin on the ordinary Animal Science and Food Production class. Thank you Mr. Hamilton for helping students get the real hands on experience that they need to understand agriculture!"
Makin this school district suffer
"i just have to say i was raised on a farm, i know what hard work is all about and i know how my food gets on the table, its life people, i promise you one thing, all u people who posted something are NOT vegitarians!!!! this chicken was meant to die within a certain time period, it was made for processing and eating, so what ur sayin is u want KFC to close down, along with the rest of the fast food chains who serve chicken? all this publicity is making this school district look bad, so please for everyones sake, drop this stupid issue, and yes, i am stickin up for the USD 333 staff, PANTHER FOREVER!"
Owner/ Stick House Sanctuary
"It too was just one chicken that changed all my views. Good for her to be the one to see the difference between 'just a chicken' and life! I see a future in animal advocacy for her. You did nothing wrong and everything right... stand up for what you believe even if you are standing alone."
"Just because someone has a change of heart to be compassionate after the fact doesn't make that empathy or kindness any less acceptable. People learn. This is what school and teaching is all about. Whitney learned to respect and value life - This is cause for celebration and cheer!"
Whitney and Chicklett
"As a teacher and a vegetarian I am so proud of Whitney for standing up for her pet, her beliefs and against her bully of a teacher. I see no value or benefit in the class and her teacher sounds like a sociopathic personality and a poor excuse for a teacher. I don't think he belongs in the education profession. "
God bless Whitney!
"God bless you Whitney for your compassion!"
"I'm proud of Whitney. You go Girl!"
"I would have done the same thing."