COLUMBUS, Ohio — You know how some school principals like to play harmless jokes on their students?
Yeah, well…this joke backfired.
It started as an April Fool’s joke about three years ago when Briggs High School Principal, Dr. Tonya Milligan, told her student body they were getting a therapy llama.
“And, by the end of the day, of course I had to tell them it was an April Fool’s joke,” she said. “And they were so mad at me.”
Then, in the fall of 2021, Milligan was on a Zoom call with her staff when someone brought up the idea of getting a therapy dog.
From there, the jokes continued.
“[I said] maybe a therapy bunny,” Milligan said. “Just as a joke.”
But here’s the punchline: a staff member knew someone who was fostering a rabbit. Long story short, Milligan checked it out and agreed to a one week trial period with students.
“And, oh my gosh, the foot traffic in Briggsy’s room,” Milligan said.
That foot traffic, fittingly enough, was in the school’s calming room that was set up about five years ago. By the end of the week Briggsy, a five-pound, almost 3-year-old ball of white fluff, became the newest Bruin.
“When I see the benefit for the kids that’s where my decisions have to come from,” Milligan said. “And, so, if it benefits kids, then I’m all for it.”
Before the adoption, Milligan followed all district protocols and checked the board of education’s policy regarding therapy animals. She also made sure Briggsy was a good fit with her students.
Caitlyn Slagle, a senior at Briggs High School, is Briggsy’s caregiver. She says after only a month, Briggsy has helped many students who are dealing with the pandemic, social and emotional difficulties, anxiety and stress.
“I’ve met more people in the past month-and-a-half with Briggsy than I have in the past probably two years,” Slagle said.
Milligan says Briggsy has brought students and staff peace, as well as a feeling of comfort.
“I’ve had kids who are extremely stressed and agitated…escalated in their behavior and we have difficulty sometimes getting them to calm down,” she said. “Hand them a bunny,” she said laughing. “First of all they’re like ‘Uh, what just happened, I’m holding a bunny’. Yes, you are.”