After a violent week of fighting in school that saw 23 students arrested in three days, Southwood High School parents knew something had to change.
Some dads decided to take matters into their own hands. They formed Dads on Duty — a group of about 40 dads who take shifts spending time at the school in Shreveport, Louisiana, greeting students in the morning and helping maintain a positive environment for learning, rather than fighting.
The students say it's working — and the numbers prove it. There hasn't been a single incident on campus since the dads showed up.
And though none of the dads have degrees in school counseling or criminal justice, they do have some relevant experience.
"We're dads. We decided the best people who can take care of our kids are who? Are us," Michael LaFitte, who started Dads on Duty, said.
Now, any negative energy that enters the building has to run the gauntlet of good parenting.
"I immediately felt a form of safety," one of the students said. "We stopped fighting; people started going to class."
"You ever heard of 'a look?'" one student asked while describing a "power" they claimed all dads have.
But it's not just the firm stares and stern warnings — it's also the dad jokes.
"They just make funny jokes like, 'Oh, hey, your shoe is untied,' but it's really not untied," a student commented.
"They hate it! They're so embarrassed by it,"LaFitte said of the students.
And it's that perfect mix of tough love and gentle ribbing that dads do so well that has helped transform this school.
"The school has just been happy — and you can feel it," a student said.
And now the dads plan to keep going to Southwood indefinitely.
"Because not everybody has a father figure at home – or a male, period, in their life. So just to be here makes a big difference," the dads said.
They'd like to start chapters of Dads on Duty throughout Louisiana — and hope to eventually take on schools across the country — without a fight.
First published on October 22, 2021 / 7:22 PM
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