Snake in School Concern of Grandmother; Learning Tool For Students

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- A Region 8 grandmother who doesn't like one school's way of teaching is demanding the Health, Wellness, and Environmental Sciences Magnet School take snakes, fake or real, out of the school.

"When I walked down that hallway, I had a traumatic fear reaction," said Glenda Smith.

Before school started there were three fake snakes at the school being used as hallway decoration, but when the Smith family complained about the snakes, Health and Wellness Magnet Coordinator Melinda Smith says the snakes were taken down within three days.

Glenda Smith has two grandchildren at the school.  Smith is a volunteer at the school, and she said that she wants all snakes removed.  On Tuesday night she went before the Jonesboro School Board to plead her case to have the snakes, fake and real, removed from the school.

"Please take into consideration the children.  We don't know if they have this fear reaction," said Smith.

"With all animals there is someone that has a fear or reservation about animals," said Melinda Smith.

She said animals are used in the classroom to help educate students.

"Kids, they relate to animals.  That's a common ground," said Smith.

She said having animals in the classroom is supported by the National Science Teachers Association as well as supported, but not required, by the Arkansas State Board of Education.

"Two years ago when the science frameworks changed, the department of education actually wrote into the framework that science teachers in all grades have to teach at least 20% hands on," said Smith.

But Grandmother Glenda Smith said she is against part of that education involving snakes.

"Let's go with a small snake," said Smith.  "What's wrong with posters?  Do we have to have a live illustration for everything?"

"If one animal goes, then they all go.  For somebody who doesn't like the snake, there's somebody who equally doesn't like the rose haired tarantula or somebody that equally that doesn't like the frog," said Melinda Smith.

Teacher Melinda Smith said she understands that kids can be scared of some animals, but if a child is afraid they don't have to be near the animal.  The child can even be taken out of the room.  However, she says learning about the animals sometimes takes that fear away.

Before school started there was an open house for parents.  Since then there have been six public information nights and all of the animals, including the snake, were on display those nights for parents to come and look at.  Right now they're sending home a pamphlet that has a form parents can fill out if they don't want their children to be around any of the animals, including snake Isabella.

The Jonesboro School Board is not taking any action on this at this time.  Superintendent Dr. Kim Wilbanks said if the board has any questions, she will answer them.

The boa constrictor, Isabella, will be back at the Health, Wellness and Environmental Studies Magnet School next week.