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When 23 young Black students were arrested for fighting at a Louisiana high school, a group of local dads stepped in to help. Now Southwood High School in Shreveport has Dads On Duty, a group of 40 dads there each day to support students as they navigate school.
The dads greet students in the morning and try to maintain peace and calm throughout the day. Since Dads on Duty started their mission, there hasn’t been one violent incident at the school nor an arrest.
“We’re dads. We decided the best people who can take care of our kids are who? Are us,” Michael LaFitte told CBS news in an interview. LaFitte is the group’s founder.
Supporting the community
The students are equally pleased with the dads. And once the dads made their presence known, “people started going to class,” said one student. Another added, “I immediately felt a form of safety.”
Dads on Duty provides that form of school safety through community support rather than law enforcement. Dads on Duty is part of a larger social movement to remove law enforcement from situations which do not require police presence, but rather community resources and empowerment.
School administrators also feel more secure with Dads on Duty. Prior to Dads on Duty, one student was arrested for punching an assistant principal, causing waves among both teachers and staff.
School-to-prison pipeline disproportionately impacts Black students
Meanwhile, Black students face school discipline at much higher rates than their white counterparts. Each discipline incident puts a student at risk for negative long-term outcomes, including mental health issues, substance abuse, and incarceration.
Now not only is there peace in the hallways of Shreveport High School, there’s also jokes — dad jokes. “They just make funny jokes like, ‘Oh, hey, your shoe is untied,’ but it’s really not untied,” said one student. Notes Mr. LaFitte with a laugh, “They hate it! They’re so embarrassed by it.”
On a more serious note, Mr. LaFitte also confirmed that Dads on Duty is especially important because many of the students lack a male role model at home. “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,” said Mr. LaFitte.