The Lonedell R-XIV School District is looking into having a furry friend roam the halls.
Principal Wayne Dierker told The Missourian that administrators wants to practice due diligence and look at all options to make the best decision in choosing a therapy dog for students.
Dierker added that he has seen therapy dogs used in schools, hospitals and other settings that have resulted in positive outcomes.
One canine in consideration, according to Dierker, is the middle school math teacher Danielle Brissette’s dog named Bear.
“He is a smaller hypoallergenic dog and is a Schnoodle,” Dierker said.
Bear has been trained and meets the requirements to gain the K-9 Good Citizen Certification and the Alliance of Therapy Dogs Certification, which are therapy dog requirements.
“(Brissette) initially had him complete these steps so that she could take him to some of the local nursing homes, but later shared the idea of a therapy dog as a resource for the students within our school,” Dierker said.
“Many schools have added dogs into the educational setting because it can help calm all students, especially ones that have experienced trauma,” he said, adding that therapy dogs teach empathy, change the mood for a child or the classroom environment, and help students focus.
“They provide a quick calming presence for students and staff and can be a great tool to use with students for academic and social motivation,” he said.
The district has not used a therapy dog in the past, according to Dierker.
“We are looking for innovative practices to support our students, especially our increasing population of students who need greater interventions and supports based on a variety of external factors,” he said.
The concept is in the initial stages and there are many factors that still need to be considered, Dierker added.
“This includes looking at board policy, insurance, parent communication and other factors that must be carefully analyzed before we can take further actions,” he said. “In the end, we want to make sure that we do our due diligence, look at all plans, make an effective plan for implementation of services (which) are deemed appropriate, and ensure that we are making effective decisions that are best for the students that we serve within our community.”
Superintendent Jenny Ulrich said teachers feel having a therapy dog will be a good addition. Currently, the district is studying what other school districts are doing for having a therapy dog.
“We’re trying to move slow in the beginning then that way if it’s something we choose to do, then we can implement it knowing that we’ve done the homework,” Ulrich said.
Another aspect to look into would include what the dog’s schedule would be and what the district’s goals would be from having a therapy dog, according to Ulrich.
“We do have a lot of children who get anxiety prior to taking a test. There’s research out there that shows that therapy dogs in the classroom can sometimes help reduce those anxiety levels,” she said.
“We also would have hopes that it could help maybe work with some of our other children in a one-to-one type setting for kids who are struggling with anxiety or stress.”