Piper The Therapy Dog
December 9, 2020
Citing recent community health, social and economic consequences related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Round Rock ISD on Monday introduced “Piper,” the school district police force’s behavioral therapy dog.
“When children experience ‘life happens’ overload, they can express it through their behaviors,” the district wrote. “These behaviors’ impact can negatively affect their schoolwork, friendships, relationships at home, and personal well-being.”
DeSean Walker is a behavior interventionist at CD Fulkes Middle School. In his role, he works with students, families and teachers on implementing interventions that can help kids cope with the complicated feelings that can influence their behaviors.
“Student lives outside of school can be complicated,” said Walker. “Grief, unemployment, and isolation are prominent and stressful issues in our student’s households. Behavior intervention techniques give students the tools they need to recalibrate, assign their focus to coming to school, being respectful, and practice optimism.”
When students visit him, they may be experiencing feelings such as anger or anxiety. It’s Piper’s job to serve as a calming influence and stimulate productive conversations.
Officer Liza Cleere serves as the chocolate Labradoodle’s trainer and handler.
“Even before the pandemic, mental health was a prominent community issue,” said Officer Cleere. “We are here to provide students prevention, and issues management solutions, not punishment. Dogs make people happy; they promote self-esteem and can produce positive student school interactions.”
The district’s police department is the first in Central Texas and the second in the state to serve students using a behavioral therapy dog. RRISD has two behavior interventionists at the middle school level and 17 at its elementary schools.