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Take Note: Calling all subs; Phoning for frogs

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Calling All Subs

School principals in Richmond County, Ga., can now sleep a little later each day, thanks to the district's automated telephone system for placing substitute teachers.

The system, nicknamed "Subby," takes messages from teachers who can't make it to work--and then rounds up replacements. The machine saves administrators from taking and making calls in the wee hours of the morning.

But a recent newspaper story about Subby said principals may not be the only ones getting a break: Teacher absenteeism has increased about 15 percent since Subby was plugged in last April, according to The Augusta Chronicle.

Some local officials have speculated that teachers find it easier to call in sick when they can leave a phone message, rather than talk directly to their supervisors.

But Marilyn Childs, who operates the system for the district, said she sees no connection between Subby and the upswing in sick leave.

"For me to be working with it, I can't honestly say there's been any abuse," Ms. Childs said. "Over all, it's a really good system. It's unique."

Phoning for Frogs

Dial (800) 922-frog, and you're likely to hear a recording. But it won't be the woodsy croaking of our pond-dwelling friends.

Instead, you will hear the soothing voice of Pat Graham, the head of the National Dissection Hotline.

Ms. Graham--whose daughter had objected to dissecting a frog in class, challenged the school requirement in court, and eventually won--runs the hot line for the National Anti-Vivisection Society in Chicago.

She doles out advice and support to up to 60 students, parents, and teachers a day from her home in Waynesville, N.C.

Most of the calls come from middle school and high school students who are opposed to dissecting animals or find the prospect too "repulsive" to handle, Ms. Graham said.

"Some kids are just not emotionally or psychologically prepared for this," she added.

Lately, elementary students have flooded the hot line with questions. Ms. Graham said animal dissection has become more common in grades K-6.

"Everyone deserves to draw the line where they're comfortable with their conscience," she said. "And usually districts do the right thing and give students an alternative."

--Joanna Richardson

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