Calumet schools getting therapy dog for trauma

In addition to being trauma informed, the CLK School District is also obtaining a therapy dog, using money from a generous grant from the Portage Health Foundation, said Shelley Smith, middle school social worker at Washington Middle School.

“We’ll be the first (school district) in the Copper Country to have that,” she said, “so, we’re really excited about the positive impact that will have.”

Darren Kinnunen, social worker at the elementary school, said the school district receiving the trauma-informed training, and the therapy dog, are unreal.

“Shelley and I were just talking about this. This is what makes us tick,” said Kinnunen.

Kinnunen said the discussion earlier was really helping students through a bad event.

“It’s helping kids by giving them a language to understand, not so much the traumatic experience, but how to deal with it,” he said, “and where they’re at.

Stress is something that everyone has, Kinnunen said, not only those who are traumatized, or even just students. He said the principal, teachers, counselors, anyone entering a school building suffers with stress, and the stress levels vary from person to person.

“There are some things that they can do to kind of lower their level of stress,” Kinnunen said, “so anytime we’re empowering kids, giving them a language, and helping them to understand themselves a little bit, then everybody will be better off.”

Smith said the staff cannot express enough gratitude toward the Portage Health Foundation for the grant money to make the trauma-informed training possible.

“We just wouldn’t have been able to do this without them,” she said, “and all of the other things that we’re going to do.”

A couple more things the school may do, she said, is to submit further information to the Gazette about the training, and also more about the dog, provided they have it in place by the end of the school year.

“But we’re also working with local law enforcement,” Smith said.

Smith mentioned that there is a statewide initiative that works in concert with the trauma training. The initiative is one where, if law enforcement comes in contact with the family or child outside of school, there can be better communication, protecting confidentiality, with the school.

If a parent has a run-in with police, say being pulled over, and the child is late the following morning, the child’s teacher can have a better understanding why said child was late and arrived in a bad mood.