Mary Alice Reporting:

(Monday, May 14th) Uhrichsville, Ohio – The Claymont School District is being proactive to address stress or anxiety youth experience.

The high school recently purchased Mustang, a facility dog, which will visit with students and faculty.

English Language Arts Teacher and Mustang’s handler Heather Dotts explains that a communications class decided to make a class project to research ways to reduce school stress and to improve the overall atmosphere.

“It began in 2015, and that was the year that Ohio made changes to our state standardized tests. They increased the rigor, they also transitioned from pencil, paper tests to online testing, and that year, many students, as well as teachers, experienced anxiety and worry.”

The purchase and training of Mustang was $3,000 which was provided by community individuals. For any future costs, such as food and supplies, Dotts will consume the cost, but they are looking to have fundraisers.

She points out that while a dog specifically is not needed, however, there is a need to address the increasing instances of anxiety and stress associated with school.

“Research has shown that the presence of a facility dog has many benefits. The simple act of petting a dog can decrease blood pressure, reduce stress, low cholesterol, and beyond that, a school facility dog can increase classroom performance by acting as a motivator.”

Mustang’s home base will be at Claymont High School but the hope is for him to travel to the other buildings in the district, to the local hospital, and to nursing homes. Dotts says that a group of students are training to be student handlers.

“They’re learning his commands and skills, and that’s another great thing that we can provide for our students with Mustang is give these students opportunities to get out in the community, to provide service, and to act as leaders through showing responsibility with the dog.”

Dotts notes that Mustang is different from a service dog since he is at the school to bring smiles and not with someone with a disability.

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