According to CBS Philadelphia, there’s a petition that has over 1,200 signatures from parents and that’s it to bring a beloved therapy dog named Phantom back into the classroom. They say headteachers cut the program on the third day of school for accountability reasons.
Parents say the decision was made without notice after two very successful years of having Phantom inside Belmont Hills Elementary School on a part-time basis, the outlet reported.
Returning to the school year, especially during the current pandemic, can bring a lot of mixed emotions for students.
“It just freaked me out having a large group of people around me,” sixth grader Kylee Wenig told the station.
That’s why the Bensalem School District would have thought it would be a good idea to bring in therapy dogs like Phantom to help with learning.
Wenig told Phantom about such an important part of the day that she drew it for last year’s yearbook cover.
“Because all the kids love him and all that and how they feel,” she said. “She’s so important that she’s in the book.”
According to CBS, parents said they were suddenly notified two days into the current school year that the therapy dog program was shut down across the district.
“The explanation was for liability reasons, that was all,” mother Abby Koss told CBS Philadelphia.
In response, the parents created a Change.org petition asking the council to reconsider their decision, saying that with no known incidents and the parents willing to sign waivers, a solution is possible.
“It’s something hospitals have figured out how to do,” mother Tarra Donnelly said. “The senior centers have therapy dogs.”
According to the outlet, Donnelly says her son Jackson, who has special needs, was devastated to learn that Phantom wouldn’t be in school.
“It’s very heartbreaking,” Donnelly said. “Jackson didn’t handle it very well.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Bensalem School District said having dogs full-time in the classroom “presents a myriad of issues, including some students’ allergies, possible animal aggression , sanitation, or adverse physical and/or emotional reaction on the part of students or adults.”
For now, parents and students have told CBS Philadelphia that they are not giving up on getting Phantom back.
“She’s very important, she’s helped a lot of kids,” Kylee said.
Parents told the news station they plan to ask headteachers to reconsider the decision at the next school board meeting on September 28.