School Shootings Signal Need for Dads' Involvment
- Jim Brown and Jenni Parker Agape Press
- 2006 27 Oct
A school safety expert says if the crisis of violence in America's schools is going to be curbed, it's necessary for fathers and father figures to play a more active role in their children's lives.
James Moore is the founder and president of the Springhill, Arkansas-based group WATCH D.O.G.S. His organization encourages fathers to get involved in the lives of their kids and other children by consistently visiting their schools and being "extra eyes and ears" on their campuses.
While addressing a recent summit on school violence hosted by President George W. Bush at the National 4-H Youth Center, Moore passionately spoke of how school violence has affected him personally, recalling in particular the impact a visit to the site of the Jonesboro school massacre (of March 24, 1998 in Craighead County, Arkansas) had on him.
In the Jonesboro incident, two armed middle school students, a 13-year old and an 11-year old, reportedly stole a van, loaded it with supplies and weapons -- including two semi-automatic rifles, four handguns, and a bolt-action rifle stolen from one of the boys' grandfather's house -- and proceeded to the school. One boy took the weapons to a nearby wood while the other set off a fire alarm and then joined his companion.
As teachers and children came out of the school, the boys opened fire on them, killing four female students and a teacher, and wounding another teacher and nine other students. After the incident, inquiries revealed that the young shooters were both fascinated with firearms, violent TV programs, and "gangster rap" music, and both were children of divorced parents.
Moore says about nine months ago he visited the Arkansas school where the two boys' committed this horrifying act of violence. "I saw where they were standing outside of the school, and they gunned down four kids and a teacher in cold blood," he notes; "and I'm watching that as a father and just thinking about the great people in that community and what they might [have been] thinking that night."
The founder of WATCH D.O.G.S. speculates that, probably, like every community that has gone through a similar tragedy, the residents of that Jonesboro community thought such a thing could never happen in their midst. That sort of thing "always happens 'over there,' wherever that elusive 'over there' is," he says.
"But that night it happened in that community," Moore continues, "and I thought, 'You know, if it can happen there, it can happen in a lot of places, and what are we going to do about it?'" He says he founded WATCH D.O.G.S. Across America in response to that tragic incident.
Today WATCH D.O.G.S. is a 501(c)3 educational organization that helps thousands of men to reconnect with their children at hundreds of schools across the country. The group urges fathers and "father figures" to come to their children's schools to eat, play, and read with their kids.
According to Moore, when dads go into the schools and connect in a positive way, their kids tend to get higher grades and interact better with their fellow students. But unfortunately, he points out, many men do not recognize the importance of getting involved.
"I, like most men in America today, have fallen prey to the lie that says dads will be the breadwinners and moms will raise the kids," the school safety expert admits. According to that line of thinking, he asserts, moms "go to school, and moms do PTA and parent-teacher conferences," leaving fathers free to concentrate on priorities other than their children.
As a result, Moore contends, "what we as fathers have done over the last several generations is that we planted seeds of inattention and abandonment in our children. And because of that action, today our nation is reaping a harvest of fatherless families and violent schools."
This is a problem that "has to stop yesterday," Moore insists. And hopefully, he says, the latest string of school shootings, tragic as it is, will serve as a wake-up call for men across the U.S., fathers and father figures alike, helping them to realize how necessary their influence is.
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