Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Home News
Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009 | 2:42 p.m.
Fathers interested in learning more about the Watch D.O.G.S. program can find information at www.fathers.com.
Any fathers who would like to volunteer for the program at Miller are asked to call the main office at 799-2260.
Before school on a December morning, Louie Frias patrols the hallways at Bob Miller Middle School. It's his day to volunteer with the Watch D.O.G.S. program, and he takes the responsibility seriously.
"You can't just plant a seed and walk away from it," Frias said. "You have to water it and tend to it."
Frias is one of about 20 fathers at Miller who volunteer for the Watch D.O.G.S. — Dads of Great Students — a safe school initiative of the National Center for Fathering. The program designed to improve school safety is in place at more than 800 schools in 33 states.
"I wanted to share the opportunity with other dads," he said.
Watch D.O.G.S. was developed in Jonesboro, Ark., as a direct result of the March 24, 1998, middle school shooting in the town. Two students killed four classmates and one teacher and wounded 11 others.
Assistant Principal Butch Heiss brought the program to Miller after participating in the program at Selma Bartlett Elementary School, where his daughter is a kindergartner.
The fathers act as an extra set of eyes on school grounds and help enforce drop-off and pick-up procedures before and after school. They may also assist with tasks such as sweeping rocks and debris off the sidewalks and delivering packages to teachers.
The fathers are not allowed to discipline students, enter student restrooms or get involved in one-on-one activities with students.
"It sounded like a very worthwhile program," said Mike Cassidy, who has a son in sixth grade at Miller and volunteers once a week. "It also sounded like more fun than making photo copies."
He said he believes the fathers' presence at the schools makes the students think twice before doing things that may cause trouble.
"I can see their wheels turning," he said. "Like, 'Should I throw my buddy's binder or not?'"
Frias, whose daughter is a seventh grader, said he does not do it just for his daughter.
"I do it for the other 1,699 other students here, too," he said.
While there were no pre-existing security concerns at Miller, Heiss said he would rather be proactive than reactive to any problems that might arise.
"Everyone always assumes things like what happened in Arkansas happen 'somewhere else,'" he said. "We could just as easily be that 'somewhere else.'"
Both of the fathers believe their presence will have a positive long-term effect, not only on their children but on the rest of the students, as well.
"It shows them a positive male role model," Cassidy said.