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Middle school teacher charged for feeding live puppy to snapping turtle while students watched

By: Alex Horton, The Washington Post
June 3, 2018 Updated: June 3, 2018 at 7:25 pm
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The students watched as the sick puppy was eaten alive by a snapping turtle in a Preston, Idaho, junior high classroom in early March, state prosecutors alleged in a Friday filing.

Robert Crosland, a biology teacher at Preston Junior High School, has been accused of misdemeanor animal cruelty, the Associated Press reported.

Preston, nestled in the state’s southeastern corner, was the setting for 2004’s indie cult film “Napoleon Dynamite.” But the incident brought new attention to the small town of just over 5,000. Calls and vague threats directed prompted authorities to bolster police presence at schools in the district, the AP reported in March.

The allegations surfaced after several parents came forward.

A mother of two boys at the school told the Preston Citizen the puppy was terminally ill and was given to Crosland by its grief-stricken owner; she said Crosland fed the dying puppy to the turtle in a graphic demonstration of the circle of life for his students.

Preston School District 201 Superintendent Marc Gee called the incident a “regrettable circumstance” but said it occurred after school hours, not in front of a full class, KTVB reported.

While the incident sparked worldwide outrage, some parents expressed frustration over the ordeal and have defended Crosland.

Farahlyn Hansen, the mother of the two boys, told the Citizen her sons were more upset about the outrage among school staff leveled at the teacher.

“I am not upset. I felt like it was the more humane thing for Robert to do than to just leave it to die,” Hansen told the paper in March.

Despite what some defenders called a humane killing of a puppy, it also led to the turtle’s death. The incident triggered an investigation, and state wildlife authorities seized and euthanized the turtle after determining it was a nonnative species, the AP reported.

The case was handed off to the Idaho attorney general after Franklin County Prosecutor Vic Pearson claimed a conflict of interest, according to the news wire.

Crosland and the attorney general’s office could not be reached. The school did not return a request seeking comment.

If convicted, Crosland faces up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

The feeding incident came before last month’s other controversial wildlife classroom killing. A Florida teacher was accused of drowning two raccoons and a possum as high school students watched. He concluded they were likely culprits in the killing of chickens kept by his class.

But authorities declined to file charges after determining there was no intent to torture or harm the raccoons, which are considered nuisance animals.

By then, teacher Dewie Brewton III had taken an early retirement amid intense public scrutiny.

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