This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
WESTTOWN — Unfortunately, as President Barack Obama said after the school shooting in Oregon on Thursday, the United States has become numb to mass shootings.
But after a middle school shooting in Jonesboro, Ark., in 1998, Jim Moore founded Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads Of Great Students), a program of the National Center for Fathering that has fathers or father figures spend an entire day at their child’s school as an extra set of eyes.
“It’s a national program,” said Dave Dutton, Watch D.O.G.S. coordinator at Penn Wood Elementary School. “The morning of the school shooting, they estimated about 15 percent of the kids were dropped off by their dads. The day after the school shooting, they found out about 80 percent of the kids were dropped off by their dads.”
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Moore wanted to find a way to get fathers involved again with the school systems and their children’s lives, and so Watch D.O.G.S. was born.
Dutton has been a part of the organization for several years with two daughters going through the school.
Interested Penn Wood fathers came out Thursday night to hear what the program, now in its sixth year at the school, is all about. Schools all across the country begin the orientation the same way — with a pizza party, which is what these fathers and their children got to enjoy.
There are two major objectives with Watch D.O.G.S.: safety and supporting education.
“The Watch D.O.G.S. program challenges fathers and father figures to find at least one day per school year to come out to the school to volunteer and be an extra set of eyes and ears for the school,” Dutton said. “We can be a positive role model for our kids, not only to your own kids, but to the entire student body.”
Those fathers or father figures who participate in Watch D.O.G.S. at Penn Wood will do more than just keep an eye out.
“They show up and sign into the office by 8:30 a.m.,” Dutton said. “They will receive a schedule. They’ll hold the door open and let the drop-off kids in and then follow the schedule with different teacher assignments.”
These dads will spend time in different classrooms to help out in different aspects, such as helping a student to read or go over a quiz or test.
Sometimes they may even help out in the library putting books away or in the office with sorting papers, but only for a short time and never for the entire day.
But they will be able to spend time with their own child or children, getting to have lunch and recess with them.
“If you have multiple kids, it means you’ll have lunch two or three times in one day,” Dutton said. “They get to interact with their child at that time and see who their friends are.”
They’re also be invited to spend special classes with their kids, such as music, art and yearbook.
After receiving three clearances with background checks, the interested fathers will receive an official Watch D.O.G.S. shirt, which they wear on the day they volunteer, and become a part of the program that is only at Penn Wood and no other school in the West Chester Area School District.
“This is your chance to get a glimpse into what your child does day in and day out in the school,” Dutton said. “Kids are going to be so proud, saying, ‘Oh hey, that’s my dad.”