Making Schools Safer, One DAD at a Time

Please welcome today’s guest blogger, Dave Williams, an expert on preventing school shootings. I grew up in Newtown, CT and I met Dave at a writer’s retreat in New Mexico (he’s now writing fiction) where this ex-detective and I talked a lot about his work and research on preventing school shootings. His book, Textbooks Not Targets: How to Prevent School Shootings in Your Community is available now for only .99 – he want to get this information out there. We can’t wait around for anyone else to take action, get one and pass it along to your parent-teacher groups, your school superintendent and administrators and read his post below on dad volunteerism at schools. Thanks for being on Mother’s Circle, Dave.

Making Schools Safer |
One of the simplest, yet most effective strategies for making schools safer involves increasing parental volunteerism in schools. Amazing things happen when parent participation goes up. Standardized test scores rise, as does attendance and optimism among students. Violence and behavior requiring correction go down, and students, teachers, administrators and parents all tend to feel better about the school and each child’s opportunity within that school. Aside from the time a parent might need to take away from work, I see no downside. It is win-win infinity.

Unfortunately, the ratio of male parent volunteers to female is still less than half in most school districts. Moms simply volunteer more often to chaperone field trips, organize school functions, and bring treats for birthday parties, and that’s on top of being full-time in the workforce. Shame on my gender, because our kids need us right alongside the moms, especially during a time when we’re all concerned with school safety, bullying, and best practices in education. I say this as a father and as a public-safety veteran—guys, we can do better.

I’m a retired cop who spent thirty years working to make my city safer. Much of that time was as a detective in a violent crimes unit, and two of those years I also worked as a school resource officer. Toward the end of my career I completed a master’s degree in criminal justice so that I could teach beyond the streets, and I wrote my master’s thesis on the subject of preventing school shootings. I learned a great deal while researching the topic, despite my years of experience. The result was a collection of strategies all designed and proven to make schools safer and to make kids FEEL safer.

I was also a single parent who became involved with a volunteer organization called Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) around the time my kids hit first and second grade. Watch D.O.G.S. was the brainchild of some fathers living and working in a school district just north of where we lived at that time, but their program has grown by leaps in the years since its inception. It now includes nearly 5400 schools in forty-seven states, and they seem primed to grow even more.

The Watch D.O.G.S. program is a volunteer opportunity which focuses on education and safety in schools by using the services of fathers, grandfathers, uncles and adult brothers. In short, men are asked to volunteer for a minimum of one day per year in their child’s (or young relative’s) elementary or middle school. The volunteers are issued a “uniform” (generally a simple t-shirt with a Watch D.O.G.S logo), a two-way radio with which to communicate with the administrative and office staff, and a schedule of the day’s events each day they show up for service.

The effect is that the male relatives of school students sign up in droves, often to the point that each school has at least one or two volunteers each school day. The Watch D.O.G.S. volunteers patrol the halls, monitor playground activities, engage people entering the school in a friendly albeit firm manner, and tend to any number of other tasks such as escorting classes to the cafeteria, helping with car and bus lanes, opening milk cartons, mending skinned knees, etc.

The results in schools utilizing the program have been significant increases in volunteerism, increased positive male involvement, increased male membership in parent-teacher organizations and their programming, consistent reports from students that they feel safer when volunteers are present, and a long and growing list of praise.

I was volunteering as a Watch D.O.G.S. Dad at my two sons’ elementary school on September 11, 2001. What began as a fun day with my kids turned terrifying as this country endured the infamous attacks. Soon parents began arriving at the school, some in tears, and many to take their children home so they could all be together in what appeared like end times. Cars began lining up to fill their tanks with gasoline at a station within view of the school, and at one point a large truck with no logo or decal pulled up next to the school entrance while the driver stared at the front doors.

My first instinct as a police officer was to get to New York City and help my brother officers under attack. I had a fleeting moment when I envisioned packing my jump kit, grabbing a toothbrush, and heading northeast. But then a wonderful thing happened. I looked down at my sons, then seven and eight, and I knew I was exactly where the universe—and those boys—needed me to be. For the rest of that day, and even now, I felt intense pride in having been in the right place at the right time.

The Watch D.O.G. Dad program was never designed for such an event as this country’s 9-11, yet it was because of their model program that I was where I needed to be. I can only wish for every other father, grandfather and uncle to feel something close to what I felt each day I volunteered under that program. Being part of keeping your children and their friends safe, being an example for them to see, and playing an active part in their education is as valuable and memorable an experience as I can imagine. So, gentlemen, go sign up or contact WATCH D.O.G.S. to learn about starting a program in your school. It may be the best time you ever spent away from the office. 

Click to buy: Textbooks, Not Targets: How to Prevent School Shootings in Your Community

About Dave:

David L. Williams is a retired thirty-year public safety veteran recognized by the Fraternal Order of Police, Rotary International, the American Legion and others for his work with families and children in crisis.  He is the bestselling author of Textbooks, Not Targets: Preventing School Shootings in Your Community and Fighting for Her Life: What to do When Someone You Know is Being Abused.

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2 Responses to Making Schools Safer, One DAD at a Time

  1. Thank you, Leah. As always, be well and happy. DW

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