Dads on Duty: Group of fathers successfully curbs teen violence with their presence at high school

Law Enforcement Today – by Lizzy Murica

SHREVEPORT, LA– After a group of concerned fathers came together in response to violence at a Shreveport, Louisiana, high school, that high school has seen no incidents of violence, and the fathers have seen a warm reception from students.

According to CBS News, in September 2021, Southwood High School was home to several violent interactions.  Fights were so severe that 23 students were arrested over a period of three days, and many others were suspended or expelled.

Although such violence might be enough to convince many parents to throw their hands up in despair, a group of fathers instead saw an opportunity to offer a solution.

High school parent Michael LaFitte decided to create Dads on Duty, a group of motivated fathers who have come together to be a parental presence at Southwood.

LaFitte told CBS:

“We’re dads. We decided the best people who can take care of our kids are who? Are us!”

The BNC reports that:

“Ultimately, the group’s mission is to create a positive environment and … solve physical altercations and encourage learning among the students.”

Dads on Duty member Tracy Harris also told the BNC that the group was formed as an alternative to an increased police presence at the school.

He added:

“They [Dads on Duty founders] came up with a thing, well, who can better control and police our own children than us?”

Harris continued:

“The initial thing was to make sure that parents were the ones that take care of our kids instead of having police and sheriffs.”

Harris went on to describe how the fathers work in shifts, arriving first thing in the morning, with many staying through the morning hours.  Others arrive at lunchtime for a shift or remain after school hours, “to make sure everything goes smoothly throughout the day.”

CBS reports that since Dads on Duty began taking shifts at Southwood, there have been zero incidents of fighting.

CBS video, embedded below, shows these fathers, wearing matching “Dads on Duty” t-shirts, joking and interacting with students as they pass in the hall.

These positive interactions have received praise from students at the school, especially as “Dad jokes” reportedly run rampant as students pass by these fathers.

One student told CBS:

“They just make funny jokes, like oh, hey, you’re shoe’s untied, but it’s really not untied.”

At the same time, the fathers can have a no-nonsense presence, which students indicated keeps them in line.

Referring to stern glances from the fathers, one student suggested to CBS that student behavior was related to the dads’ interactions, saying:

“Have you ever heard of ‘a look’?”

Regarding the dads’ interactions with students, Harris told the BNC:

“You probably have the presence of a little bit of sternness, but not so much.  We like to make them have fun, make school, make life enjoyable, because you never know what they came from … the night before, or getting off the bus.  You never know what happened.

“So when they see us, instead of us standing around, or somebody looking around, mean-mugging them, we welcome them.  We shake their hands, what’s up, how was your day, good morning, have a great day, get your breakfast, get to class on time.

“We give all kinds of positive affirmations to the kids so that they can have a comfortable learning environment.”

One student commented on how safe he feels with Dads on Duty on the scene, saying:

“I immediately felt a form of safety.”

Another praised the behavior of his fellow students after Dads on Duty formed, saying:

“We stopped fighting, people started going to class.”

The mood of the school has even been affected, with one student telling CBS:

“The school has really just been, like, happy, and you can feel it.”

Harris told the BNC that he thinks the success of the program lies mostly in the presence of “Dad energy.”

He said:

“I think kids are- when they see Dad, they know it’s something serious.

“But we try our best to not make it look like you’re in trouble.  We’re not the ‘you’re in trouble’ dads.

“We come to bring peace, a little stability, just the overall being there makes a big difference, and how the kids interact with us….

“The kids are very receptive of us being there.”

Harris also made it clear to the BNC that Dads on Duty are “not authorized” to intervene physically with the students.

He said:

“We’re not allowed to put our hands on [the students] at all.

“They have several security officers there.”

The members of Dads on Duty plan to be a presence at Southwood “indefinitely.”

They also want to start Dads on Duty chapters in other areas of Louisiana, and ultimately, throughout the United States.

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