Dogs could one day be joining students in 100 Mile and Williams Lake schools.
School District 27 has drafted a policy that considers allowing animals into schools for educational purposes. The policy, which has been released for public feedback, proposes permitting both service and non-service animals to be brought into the classroom.
Carrie Pratt, SD27’s manager of communications, said the district doesn’t currently have a policy that allows or prohibits animals in the classroom. The policy it is considering has already been adopted by several school districts across B.C.
Service animals listed in the policy would include emotional support dogs, hearing dogs, seizure response dogs service dogs and guide dogs. These animals must be trained and certified by a training school accredited by either the International Guide Dog Federation or Assistance Dogs International.
Pratt said that as service dogs are regulated they have drafted their policy around their inclusion. At this time said they’re not aware of any other service animals with similar regulations, so the policy would only apply to dogs.
To apply to allow a service animal within a school, parents of a child with special educational needs or a medical condition, recognized by the Ministry of Education or a medical professional, will have to write a letter to the board requesting the dog’s admittance. The parents will also have to agree to take on any costs the dog’s accommodation incurs and train an alternative dog handler for when the primary one is absent.
SD27, meanwhile, will arrange a meeting with parents, the dog handler, classroom teachers, the student and support staff to discuss the details of the arrangement. This will include the purpose of the dog, its personal care, classroom considerations, creating rules and familiarization with the school environment and community.
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The service dog’s presence may be revoked or denied based on a variety of factors. These include aggression, barking excessively, urinating and defecating inside the school, the dog being unable to provide its intended service and if it impairs the learning of other students.
Rules for non-service animals intended for educational reasons are similar, if slightly less stringent. Teachers wishing to bring animals in must secure the approval of the principal, ensure no allergies or fears of the animal exist amongst students and staff and take responsibility for its feeding and care.
“Once policy and procedures are finalized, Principals and teaching staff could incorporate animals into their curriculum accordingly,” Pratt said, adding this could take the form of classroom projects or pets.
Animals will be removed if hygiene becomes an issue and must leave the school during vacation periods in the winter, spring and summer. Poisonous or potentially dangerous animals will not be accommodated in any schools.
Public feedback on this policy is being welcomed until Dec. 24 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, Pratt said. At an upcoming policy committee on Dec. 7, she said recommendations will be made to the board on whether or not the policy should be approved or referred back to staff for changes.