By People Staff
May 25, 1987 12:00 PM

Frogs may not be the cuddliest of creatures, but Jenifer Graham, for one, doesn’t think they should be sacrificed for science. Recently the 14-year-old sophomore at Victor Valley High School in Victorville, Calif. refused to dissect a frog in her biology class, citing her belief that raising animals for food or laboratory use is wrong most of the time. School board officials declined to waive the dissection requirement completely, insisting instead that her transcript carry a notation. If that happens, Jenifer will go to court. Her lawyer, Joe Ramsey, a board member of the Humane Society of the U.S., says he will sue the school district if she receives “a black mark” on her grade report because of her refusal. Ramsey claims that a suit based on the First Amendment protection of strongly held religious and moral beliefs “would be a legal first, a very important case in the animal rights movement.”

Says Jenifer: “I’m not squeamish. I’m just against the idea of raising pigs, crawfish, frogs or any animals for use in high school biology class.” A vegetarian who watches her dairy and egg intake, Jenifer won’t wear leather products and won’t use cosmetics that she’s heard are tested for safety by “blinding rabbits.” An only child of divorced parents, she lives with her grandmother, has a pet cockatiel and angelfish, and says her mother—a kitchen manager in Wheaton, Ill.—raised her as an animal rights sympathizer. Her bedroom is crowded with animal pictures, nature books and stuffed animals. “I don’t want to be a vet,” she says. “I’d like to observe animals in the wild, like Jane Goodall.”

Last February, when Jenifer balked at cutting up a worm, her classwork was so good that she still got an A for the quarter. But this time the school’s board of trustees told her that her refusal to dissect a frog would affect her final grade. “If we granted an exception, we would have to grant any number of exceptions,” explains school trustee Claude Noel. “Now, for example, some students try every excuse in the world to get out of phys ed because they don’t want it or don’t like it.”

While Jenifer nervously awaits her final grades, her pro-frog stance has already earned her an appearance on the Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, during which she was loudly applauded, and she has received a stack of letters from antivivisectionists and other sympathizers nationwide. One Hollywood special-effects artist even offered to videotape a dissection for the school so that “one frog martyr” could save many others. The school board was unimpressed. “At least my classmates are behind me 100 percent,” says Jenifer. “They’re all saying, ‘Go for it.’ ”