Madyson Cushenbery is a 3rd grader at Fowler Elementary School. She says that in December 2009 a teacher's English Mastiff named Mabel bit her on the face. Then she says it happened again in January of this year. The girls mother, Shannon Cushenbery, had enough and wanted the dog out of the class.
Madyson recounts the first attack. "Well I was just sitting and everyone else was just hugging her and petting her and all of that and then I went to hug her cause we had to get up and when I went to go hug her she bit me."
Shannon says she raced to the school "... So I immediately go up there to find my daughter crying, upset, claiming that the dog had bit her."
Shannon says when she got there, things the staff were saying disturbed her. "...They all assured us that it was not a dog bite that it was just a bump of heads, that they crossed paths at the same time and the tooth actually just scraped her, that it was a pure accident. (Reporter asks) "So they say that Madyson and Mabel just bumped heads?" "Yeah, they turned at the same time and Mable just kind of grazed her that it was actually not a bite." (Reporter asks) "Did you buy it?" "Well, we were not convinced and because of that we were uncomfortable because Madyson kept saying 'No, she bit me' and they kept saying 'No, Madyson, that's not what happened'."
After the first incident, Shannon says she went to the principal and told her she did not want Mabel near Madyson. She says the school agreed. Things changed the next month, the Cushenbery's say it happened again.
"Well then in January we received a phone call and said 'Okay, we hate to tell you this but the dog has just bitten your daughter once again'." Madyson recounts the second bite, "I was just petting the dog and laying down by it I turned back to pet Mabel again and all I saw was Mabel's mouth open."
Shannon has several photographs of abrasions on Madyson's nose. As happened the first time, the dog's teeth also broke her glasses.
After the second bite, Shannon said enough was enough: She wanted Mabel gone, for good. She says she tried several channels of communication. "We went through all the official networks to try to get that done they told me they said the dog was going to stay... They told us the dog did not cross the line by disfiguring her permanently so they were going to allow it. (Reporter asks) "So, it wasn't a bad enough bite to them to want to get this dog out?" "Right." (Reporter asks)"She still had her arms and legs?" "She still had her arms and legs." The dog was removed from the school but only after the Cushenbery's hired a lawyer.
Shannon says the physical injuries are minuscule compared to the emotional trauma. Madyson has seen a therapist who diagnosed her with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She is taking medication to help her cope.
The Cushenbery's say they racked up about $1000 in medical expenses and they would like the WFISD to cover them, but most of all they just want an apology.
(Reporter asks) 'You want an apology, you want your expenses covered, are you going to seek any punitive damages from the school?" "No!" (Reporter asks) "So, you just want what you're out covered and them to say 'I'm sorry'?" "Yes, we want an apology and we want our formal meeting before the School Board.
The family tells Newschannel 6 the attorney for the WFISD School Board faxed them a settlement offer of $550 if they would put the case to rest. (Click on links above and to the left to view those documents.) Shannon says she will make her case before the School Board on September 20, 2010.
Renae Murphy, Spokesperson for WFISD declined an on-camera interview due to this being a pending legal matter, but says in an e-mail the teacher had special training at Midwestern Stat University in a course called "Working in Harmony With Animals: Animal Assisted Therapy, Theory & Applications".
Murphy also said in the e-mail the dog is certified as a therapy dog through the American Kennel Club's "Canine Good Citizen Program".
However, Lisa Peterson, Director of Communications for the AKC says the Canine Good Citizen Program is not at all designed to certify an animal as a therapy dog and the AKC does not even have a program to certify therapy animals. Peterson said the program is limited to testing the obedience of a dog.