Two Virginia brothers have started an initiative to place fathers in local high schools to support faculty and staff, as well as deter violence among students.
Jimmy and Josh Carter of Chesterfield County, Virginia, who have seven children between them, said they were inspired by the "Dads on Duty" initiative in Louisiana, where a group of fathers took matters into their own hands last fall after repeated violence broke out at Southwood High School in Shreveport, leading to the arrest of 23 students over just a three-day period.
When a teenager was arrested in March after allegedly dragging a female classmate into the bathroom at Thomas Dale High School in Chesterfield and raping her in February, the Carter brothers cemented their resolve to get involved.
They reached out to the Louisiana group for pointers while figuring out how to set up their own version of "Dads on Duty," and were encouraged to learn of the initiative's results there. When 40 fathers showed up at the school and took shifts to maintain a peaceful environment, the violent brawls stopped and students went to class.
"The violent crime percentages dropped tremendously, just by having those male mentors and that presence at the school," Josh said.
The Carter brothers told Fox News Digital they have already secured the participation of approximately 30 volunteers to be a part of "Dads on Duty."
Josh went on to explain their hope that by starting their own "Dads on Duty" in Chesterfield, it "would not only benefit the school system and the faculty, staff with having somebody else there with them, but also the students, as well, to make them feel safer while they're at school."
"It kind of became a win-win for everybody," he said.
The Carter brothers' initiative emerged from their concern that their children's public school is not adequately staffed to handle problems.
"If you're talking about even Thomas Dale High School, where you have two campuses and hundreds of kids, you can't match a student to every teacher or even a teacher to every five students," said Josh. "So there's always going to be those opportunities for fighting, for alleged assaults, physically and sexually, because there are more students than faculty and the area is so big."
The brothers explained the practical steps their organization will be taking to help out at the schools, such as greeting the students in the morning, making sure they get to class throughout the day and ensuring a smooth dismissal.
A particularly important duty, they said, will be to ensure there are no incidents in the bathrooms, which they said are commonly problematic locations.
"No dads participating in the program will actually be in the bathroom, it will be more of around the bathrooms," Josh clarified. "So if there's a group of seven kids walking in the bathrooms and there are only three stalls, obviously all seven of you don't need to go in there at one time, because that's where the trouble starts."
In speaking to students, the brothers learned of a recurring scenario in which a large group will enter the bathroom at the same time, a fight will break out, and other students will record it or serve as "look-out."
Jimmy said they have received several emails and comments from parents who have told them their children are afraid to go to the bathroom at school. "So the first thing they do when they get home is run to the bathroom because they haven't used it all day," he said.
"I think that the times are different," said Josh, who is 35 but noted how school culture has seemingly worsened even since he was a student. "And I think that especially in our young male population, there is a lot of stress put on these adolescents and these young teenagers when it comes to being a man in today's environment."
"I think that, unfortunately, a lot of kids fall into a poor choice of friends and lifestyle," he added.
The brothers emphasized the layman's nature of their perspective, but also said the number of national news stories about turmoil in the schools would seem to indicate to anyone that something has gone wrong.
"It's something that I think we can all agree, we see it getting worse and worse," Josh said. "I mean, there's no shortage of news articles of kids being beat up in school, kids allegedly being raped in school, kids even being killed in school."
Recounting how he was speaking with his daughter's doctor recently, Jimmy noted how the doctor told him that "75% of teenage kids these days take medicine for depression and anxiety, and she says that they've seen a huge uptick since COVID started."
"COVID was hard on everybody, but especially kids, where they were shut in the house non-stop for the whole school year and a half," said Jimmy. Now that school is back, he speculates that many students now see it as a free-for-all.
The brothers hope their initiative, which is slated to roll out fully next fall, will play a part in correcting those problems by offering mentorship and helping students succeed.
"The main focus behind the ‘Dads on Duty’ initiative is to make sure that every child feels safe and appreciated while they're at school," Josh said. "It's hard for you to start to develop the necessary skills to be a successful adult if you're constantly afraid of going to school every day."
"And, you know, it's sad that we live in that society today, but there are a lot of kids — and kids that we've talked to — who are afraid to go to school because of that reason," he added.