Village board backs facility therapy dog for Ashwaubenon schools
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – The village board is supporting the idea of providing a school resource officer with a facility therapy dog in the Ashwaubenon School District.
The board voted Tuesday, May 28, in favor of applying for a dog after hearing from Public Safety Department Chief Eric Dunning and School Resource Officer Jeff Everetts.
Dunning noted the idea would also have to receive the backing from the Ashwaubenon school board before proceeding with the application process.
He said having a facility therapy dog with a school resource officer would help deal with students who have behavioral issues.
“The behavioral issues, it just doesn’t impact the one student,” Dunning said. “It ends up taking staff’s time, school resource officer’s time, and sometimes you have to clear the classroom because of the disruption of students.”
When Everetts looked into how to deal with situations like this, Dunning noted one of the things discovered was a program in Ohio, Canine Companions for Independence, which trains facility therapy dogs for perspective police departments that go through a selection process.
With facility therapy dogs being used in school districts throughout Wisconsin, Dunning said Everetts was able to see the effect of one being used by the Menasha Police Department.
“Having a therapy dog within the schools has a calming effect before someone does burst out into some kind of emotional breakout or meltdown,” Dunning said.
Dunning said the facility therapy dog program would be a “50-50 venture” between the village and the school district.
Financial figures provided to the board listed the annual training and costs totaling $5,700, which would be split.
The annual costs include a $3,900 stipend for the officer handling the dog, which would come to $150 per pay period.
In addition, Dunning said there would be an initial cost of around $2,000 to send Everetts to a two-week training course with the dog in Ohio.
Unlike a K-9 dog, which has the same handler during its time in service, Dunning said a facility service dog could be retrained to work with another officer if Everetts would be assigned elsewhere in the department or retire.
In the event the Public Safety Department receives approval this summer from CCI to receive a facility therapy dog, Dunning said the department would likely not take ownership of the animal until about a year from now with the dog being in training for a year before introduced to the officer.
Though the board’s motion passed on a unanimous voice vote, two trustees expressed concerns.
Trustee Ken Bukowski said he didn’t like how now there are “dogs taking care of kids in school.”
“When are we going to get away from pills and therapy dogs, and get families (involved) where they take care of their kids and discipline their kids… and get some of this stuff resolved at home?” Bukowski said. “I know it’s not happening, and therefore we need something like a therapy dog.”
Trustee Gary Paul questioned where the parents are with children who have emotional and behavioral issues.
“Why do the schools become babysitters?” Paul said. “Why does the safety department have to become babysitters to these people? It’s the parents’ responsibility to make sure their children behave.”
Trustee Allison Williams spoke in favor of having a facility therapy dog.
“We know the parents aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing – we can argue that all day long,” she said. “Then why should the other 20-something kids in the class suffer that loss, because now they’re dealing with that one child’s disruptive behavior?”
Village President Mary Kardoskee said if the dog is able to help one disruptive child, “that helps the other 22 kids, also.”
“Am I saying it’s right or wrong? That’s not for me to judge,” Kardoskee said. “All I can say is that if this helps that school and those children make it and keep going, I will be an advocate for it.”
Everetts said the dog not only would be beneficial to have when dealing with behavioral issues, but could also be help when interviewing a child who has been the victim of sexual assault or some other kind of abuse.
“It’s a great tool for that, and also it’s another great tool to break down those barriers between law enforcement and the students,” Everetts said.
Ashwaubenon Superintendent Kurt Weyers said he expects the school board will consider whether to support having a facility therapy dog at the next board meeting June 12.
Weyers said he “probably would” favor having the dog in the schools, but hopes to meet with Everetts before the meeting to ask some questions about the program.