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October 09, 2002 1 min read
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No Bones About It

Newport (Ky.) High School’s dilemma over what to do with a human skeleton has been resolved.

Biology and anatomy teachers used the skeleton as a teaching aid from the 1970s to the 1980s, but stopped using it in the past decade or so, said Roger VonStrohe, who worked at the school in various positions, including principal, during much of that time.

A local doctor donated the skeleton, reputed to be the doctor’s medical school cadaver, Mr. VonStrohe said. It was a “very effective teaching tool,” he noted.

But as society became more cautious about the use of human remains, Mr. VonStrohe said, teachers opted to buy a realistic, plastic model skeleton instead.

The unassembled human skeleton was stored in a 3-foot-long box and locked up in a science lab, said Mr. VonStrohe, who is now the director of pupil personnel for the 2,600-student Newport school district.

The issue of what to do with the skeletal parts surfaced last month, when someone rummaging in the storage room came across the remains. Mr. VonStrohe called the local police department, which referred him to the Campbell County coroner’s office.

Once the skeleton was in the possession of Dr. Mark Schweitzer, educators learned a number of facts about the bones.

The skeleton is probably from the early 1920s, judging from the time the doctor was in medical school, and it’s still in good condition. And it is the skeleton of a female—"most probably a person who came from a well-to- do family,” Mr. VonStrohe said, which the coroner determined from its intact teeth and bone structure.

The box also contained parts of another skeleton, which date to the 1950s, Mr. VonStrohe said.

Donating the skeleton to a university is one possibility, according to Dr. Schweitzer. But he can’t decide what to do until he gets word on the best legal course of action.

Mr. VonStrohe sees the topic of the skeletal remains as no laughing matter. “People are sensitive about this issue nowadays, and we wanted to do things correctly and appropriately,” he said.

But others see a lighter side. Quipped Jack Hicks, the spokesman for the school district, about what Dr. Schweitzer will do with the skeleton: “The bones are in his court.”

— Nashiah Ahmad


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