Town torn over viral ‘feeding of biological specimens’

(Updated Friday, March 16, with a news report that the teacher’s snapping turtle has been both confiscated and euthanized by state officials.) 

PRESTON — Preston School District patrons are torn over the alleged feeding of a small live puppy to a snapping turtle by a junior high biology teacher last week.

Preston Junior High School biology teacher Robert Crosland

Robert Crosland, the teacher who purportedly committed the act after school and in front of students, is now the subject of a police investigation and stands at the center of a viral firestorm of national proportion.

The story, which spread after the district acknowledged the incident, has snagged national headlines, prompted a statement from PETA and caught the ire of concerned citizens from across the country.

“What I have learned in the last four days is disgusting. It is sick,” animal activist Jill Parrish told Salt Lake City TV station KSTU. Parrish filed a police report against Crosland.

“This sadistic science teacher needs to be charged with felony animal cruelty,” Facebook user Scott Beckstead said.

Many in the local community, however, have rallied around Crosland, arguing that the flood of national media coverage has vilified him unfairly. An online petition, “We Support Crosland,” had garnered 2,519 signatures of support as of Wednesday afternoon.

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“Mr. Crosland prepared me for college like no other teacher,” said former Preston student Erica Malouf. “He brought science to life and life to science.”

Meanwhile, local authorities are urging patience from the public as they continue to investigate.

“The volume of calls being received  by both law enforcement and my office is hindering my ability to complete what needs to be done to reach the end goal of justice in this case,” Franklin County prosecuting attorney Vic A. Peterson wrote in a press release Tuesday.

The event occurred well after students “had been dismissed” and was not a “school-directed program,” Preston superintendent Marc Gee said in a news release.

Neither the time nor safety of students or staff was compromised, Gee added.

The Associated Press reported Friday afternoon that state officials euthanized the snapping turtle at the center of the investigation earlier this week.

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture explained that snapping turtles are an “invasive species” in Idaho and require a permit. Officials had seized the turtle Tuesday and euthanized it Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

Preston Junior High School serves some 570 students and is located in East Idaho, minutes from the Utah border.

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