"It's our goal to let them see what the right relationship with a male figure is supposed to look like," the dads explained.
After a violent week of fights at a Louisiana high school saw 23 students getting arrested in three days, a group of dads stepped up to help. Five dads whose children attend Southwood High School in Shreveport got together on a Sunday night to brainstorm what they could do to help cut down the violence at the school. "After about three hours, we came up with the idea to have us be a presence on the campus," Michael LaFitte Jr., who hosted the meeting at his office, told Good Morning America. "We thought we could be a collective unit to be able to show them that there are strong men who are on the campus."
Thus was born Dads on Duty — a group of about 40 dads who take turns spending time on the Southwood High campus, greeting students in the morning, sharing jokes with them, offering a helping hand or a listening ear, and helping maintain a positive environment for learning. "Although we're titled 'dad's on duty,' we also serve as uncle's on duty, we serve as men of the community on duty," said LaFitte. "Because there are some folks who don't have a father or don't have such a great relationship with their father, and it's our goal to let them see what the right relationship with a male figure is supposed to look like."
LaFitte works with an independent security company to vet the fathers who participate in the initiative. At any given time during the school day, there are six to 10 dads wearing "Dad's on Duty" T-shirts on campus. "Some days we have long, long days, but we will be at school no matter what," said Zachary Johnson, who has four children at Southwood High. "When your heart is into whatever you're doing, you make it work."
David Telsee III, another member of Dads on Duty, said that although his son, a 15-year-old sophomore, was initially unsure about the idea of seeing his dad on campus every day, he has since "warmed up to" the idea. "At first, mine was like, 'What are you doing dad?'" said Teslee, who spends around three to four hours each day on campus, split between the morning and the afternoon. "He's starting to warm up to it now, but at first he couldn't believe it." According to Kim H. Pendleton, Ph.D., the principal of Southwood High, the dads' efforts have already shown results in the six weeks since they launched the initiative.
Pendleton explained that although the school faced serious gang violence at the beginning of the school year, this worrying trend has tapered off since the start of the "Dad's on Duty" effort. "After the fights, there was a heavy police presence at the school and the kids told me they did not like that," said Pendleton. "The dads are from the community. They care and they're committed to being present. The kids see them as they're walking in the morning. They greet the kids. They tell corny jokes. When I do my rounds to classrooms, they walk with me. They're making sure that kids are leaving school safely. People are able to talk to them."
This also is the best thing you’ll watch today. Well done Dads. pic.twitter.com/dM9saPZUOb— Jason Romano (@JasonRomano) October 23, 2021
The dads are now working to expand "Dad's on Duty" to other schools in their school district and hope to eventually make the effort national. "We just want people to know that it's possible," said Johnson. "We went with it hoping it would make an impact on the school, and now that we see that it's working, we want to take it to other schools." LaFitte chimed in: "We'd like this to be the same as the PTA, something that is in every school in every county." Pendleton praised the dads for helping fulfill her mission to make sure every student on campus feels seen and heard. "My biggest charge to kids is to find one adult that you can interact with and you can trust and you can share information with and we can help you," she said. "I want them to find one person on campus who knows who they are, and the dads help with that."