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 APBNEWS.COM > NEWSCENTER > BREAKING NEWS > STORY
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Teacher Charged in Classroom Rabbit Attack
Allegedly Left It to Die After Attempted Suffocation

Nov. 30, 2000

By Seamus McGraw


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APB In Depth: Animals and Crime

HUNTINGTON PARK, Calif. (APBnews.com) -- A special education teacher at a Huntington Park Middle School was placed on administrative duty after he was charged with trying to suffocate a rabbit in front of his students.

Godwin Collins Onunwah, 47, a teacher at Gage Middle School, is facing charges of misdemeanor animal cruelty, authorities said.

The charge stems from a Sept. 29 incident. A few days earlier, Onunwah instructed his special-education students to bring in animals to dissect in class, said Hilda Ramirez, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County School District.

Ramirez said the directive itself was unusual. The district is in the process of phasing out animal dissections in class, a teaching technique which is currently employed only in some high schools, and even then involves the use of prepared animal cadavers, purchased expressly for the purpose of dissection.

Stopped at pet store

According to school officials, one of Onunwah's students, a 13-year-old boy, stopped at a pet store on his way to school and bought a black and white rabbit, which he brought -- alive -- into school.

Authorities allege that Onunwah placed the bunny in a sealed plastic bag in an attempt to suffocate it, in violation of a state education department guideline which bars educators from killing animals on school grounds, even for educational purposes.

When the rabbit survived the school day, Onunwah allegedly placed the bagged bunny in a cabinet, where it died over the weekend.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals investigated the incident and charged Onunwah with misdemeanor animal cruelty. If convicted, the teacher, who was hired by the school district two years ago, could lose his job and face up to a year in prison, authorities said.

Onunwah is scheduled for arraignment Dec. 18.

Seamus McGraw is an APBnews.com senior writer (seamus.mcgraw@apbnews.com).

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