BOE adopts policy for therapy dogs

BUCKHANNON — The Upshur County Board of Education adopted Policy 2023, which refers to therapy dogs, at the meeting held at Buckhannon-Upshur High School on Tuesday, March 22.

Policy 2023 had been reviewed and tabled several times over the past few months; however, board members agreed to adopt the policy at the most recent meeting.

According to documentation on Policy 2023, the purpose of therapy dogs in Upshur County Schools is “to support the use of therapy dogs to provide comfort and affection to our students. Therefore, Upshur County Schools endorses the use of trained, certified and properly handled dogs to assist in providing opportunities for students diagnosed and/or identified as benefitting from such therapeutic intervention.”

Additionally, therapy dogs may provide benefit to students and staff by the following as listed in the policy.

• Improving motor skills and joint movement

• Improving assisted or independent movement

• Increasing self-esteem

• Increasing verbal communication

• Developing social skills

• Increasing willingness to join in activities

• Improving interactions with others

• Motivating willingness to exercise

• Making one feel happier, less depressed, and with an improved outlook on life

• Decreasing loneliness and isolation and by giving one a companion

• Reducing boredom

• Reducing anxiety because of its calming effects

• Helping children learn empathetic and nurturing skills

• Improving the relationship between the individual and the healthcare provider

The handler of the therapy dog will also have to meet certain requirements as well as the dog itself. Handler requirements include training and preparation from the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, certification through and AKC recognized therapy dog organization and application and approval to become a certified Therapy Dog Handler in the Upshur County School System. The handler must complete the Upshur County Therapy Dog Behavior and Protocol Course prior to entering any Upshur County School. There must also be a certificate of insurance obtained/maintained. In addition, the therapy dog must be removed from school property if exhibiting out of control behavior, loss of certification and/or a loss of insurance.

The policy also outlined that financial considerations and obligations will be the responsibility of the handler and that each handler will receive a $300 yearly stipend. Insurance must also be secured by the handler, through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, which will provide up to $1 million in coverage per year. Certain breeds are excluded from being therapy dogs including Pit Bull, Rottweiler, Chow-Chow, Akita, German Shepherd and Wolf Hybrid. There are also health requirements including the therapy dog must receive yearly veterinary exams, inoculations, a list of medications deemed necessary by the veterinarian and all therapy dog records must be kept on file in the central office.

In addition to approving Policy 2023, the Upshur County Board of Education approved the agenda and minutes, financials, WVU Extension Service Budget (with Kristi Wilkerson requesting review), School Building Authority Major Improvement Project submission for Tennerton Elementary School, the Grow Your Own Memorandum of Understanding, Consent Agenda for approval of Union Elementary School Fifth Grade Field Trip to Pittsburgh, Pa. on Tuesday, May 3, approval of Union Elementary Field Trip Chaperones, approval of French Creek Elementary School Field Trip chaperones, approval of Buckhannon-Upshur High School Choir chaperones to Washington, D.C., approval of Tennerton Elementary School Fifth Grade Field Trip to Bridgeville, Pa. on Tuesday, April 12 and approval of Glenville State University Memorandum of Understanding.

The Buckhannon-Upshur High School Band chaperones for the Nashville, Tenn. were undecided. Motion also failed regarding personnel. Board members also briefly discussed the hearing and approval of submission of levy rates to the State Tax Department before suspending the meeting for further discussion at the Tuesday, April 19 Board of Education meeting. The Upshur County Board of Education then went into executive session to discuss possible service employee discipline.


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