WFISD Issues Last Statement About Dog Bite Battle

Wichita Falls Independent School District Leaders have issued what they say is their final statement concerning the Dog Bite Battle.

Newschannel 6 has been working to get your questions answered about the complaint and policy changes for several weeks. Shannon Cushenbery told Newschannel 6 her daughter, Madyson was bitten on the face two different times by her teacher's dog. The English Mastiff, named Mable, was being used as a reading therapy dog at Fowler Elementary School. The Cushenbery's say once Madyson was bitten, they asked the school to remove the dog. They say the school refused to until the family hired an attorney. At the end of last year, the WFISD says Mable was removed from class due to the pending legal matter.

As Newschannel 6 dug deeper into the issue, we uncovered conflicting stories from the WFISD Public Information Officer Renae Murphy. In an e-mail exchange on September 16th we asked "How many other dogs are currently being used in the WFISD?" Murphy responded "A pair of dogs are part of another class in the District." Then, on September 24th we wrote Murphy again. This time to confirm reports that all dogs had been banned from the District. Murphy wrote "The decision to suspend dogs in the classroom was made by individual principals at the beginning of the school year due to the pending legal matter..."

That raised more questions. Newschannel 6 sent an e-mail on September 30 with specific questions of Murphy. We ask "If the decision was made before the school year to not have dogs in classrooms, why was this not known across the WFISD?" and "How does the WFISD typically handle internal communications relating to policy information - such as a unanimous decision based on a "pending legal matter"?" Five days later, we received a prepared statement attached to an e-mail in which Murphy writes "...Due to the fact that the details regarding the continued line of questioning involves a student and a pending legal matter, the District will no longer address questions regarding this issue."

Shannon Cushenbery says the process has been difficult on her family. Madyson has already settled into a new school and is starting to adjust to the new surroundings. Shannon, however, is still upset. (Reporter asks) "What do you take away from all this?" Cushenbery answers, "I take away from it a total lack of faith in the School District all together. I feel they talk about welcoming parents to bring forth their complaints and their grievances without retaliation and yet we did that; we tried to follow all the channels they told us to, and yet here we are. We've still been treated unprofessionally. We've been retaliated against and we've still seen no actions because of what we did." (Reporter observes) "You've become a pariah of sorts." Cushenbery continues "Pretty much." (Reporter asks) "How does that make you feel?" Cushenbery responds "It frustrates me and it makes me sad for my children."

Many Newschannel 6 viewers and readers of this web site have commented on the story. Newschannel 6 listened and broadcast both sides of the issue. Shannon Cushenbery has been an active poster on the comments thread below, but also responds directly to those that may speak out against her. "I don't care if people believe the dog bit her or if the dog scratched her. The point is she was scared. She needed to be in the classroom where the dog was. They should have just removed the dog that would have been simple."

Shannon says her attorney is still going back and forth with the Board's attorney to work something out. The whole time she's said she does not plan to seek punitive damages. All she wants, is her expenses covered, an apology and her voice heard. She says "The thing is that I want people to know is: the School District has had about 6 to10 different versions of the story but yet we've only had one. So if their story continues to change and their the ones supposedly telling the truth why would their story not be the consistent (one)?"

Newschannel 6 is still left wondering what, exactly, the WFISD Policy on Dogs is. In contradiction to the e-mails on 9/16/10 and 9/24/10 the prepared statement of 10/5/10 says "Under the regulations, campus Principals have the discretion to determine whether or not to permit animals on a campus."

That appears to be the last word from the WFISD about the Dog Bite Battle.

If you would like take a closer look and decide for yourself, click on the document links to the upper left. They are images of the e-mails exchanged between Newschannel 6 Journalists and WFISD Public Information Officer Renae Murphy.

Paul Harrop, Newschannel 6