Dads in Schools program hopes to curb school violence

Pastor Tony Martinez, fourth from right, poses for a portrait with a group of CCSD fathers afte ...

Troy Martinez’s children went to school in the Los Angeles Unified School District in the ‘90s when he recalled violence breaking out in the community and spilling into the schools.

Now, with 11 grandchildren in the Clark County Unified School District, he says he’s seeing the same thing happen in Las Vegas.

After a series of violent incidents at schools in recent weeks that prompted the district to implement new disciplinary and safety measures, Martinez has partnered with the district on a new program called Dads in Schools that aims to provide what he calls prevention through presence.

“How do we quickly stop the hemorrhaging of violence that we’re seeing? You’ve got to stop the bleeding before you can heal,” Martinez said.

As part of the program, fathers and other volunteers from the school community will be present during shifts on campuses to act as a school resource and as a potential deterrent for fights. The district approved an agreement last month that would allow the program to collectively support students through next summer.

At least 86 schools and over 300 volunteers had signed up to participate in the program as of Friday, according to Martinez.

After signing up and being assigned to a school – hopefully in their community – Martinez says volunteers will undergo principal-led training that will be tailored to each school’s individual needs.

Principals will indicate when they need assistance, for example during lunch or after school when a larger influx of students are moving in the hallways at the same time and fights are more likely to occur.

So far this school year, the Clark County School District — the fifth largest in the country — has seen 5,700 calls for service regarding fights, batteries or assaults and 1,300 combined incidents where arrests and citations had been issued on school campuses, according to CCSD Police.

Eddie Blanco, a volunteer with Dads in Schools whose daughter attends junior high in the district, said he sees a lack of love, discipline and attention for kids throughout the community.

Blanco said he’s met youth who carry clothes with them because they’ve been evicted and returned home locked out of their homes and unable to find their parents.

“I almost see a lot of the kids having no hope. They’re in survival mode. Being in that survival mode, it’s like you’re a ticking time bomb,” he said. “That’s a reality, that’s happening here in our city.”

Blanco is a graduate of Eldorado High School, where a teacher was brutally attacked last week. In response to the attack, the district is implementing new security measures to ensure the safety of staff and students.

The father says he recognizes he and other volunteers are navigating a new situation in an environment where tensions are high. Blanco said he is expecting pushback from parents and students, but stressed that the dads aren’t there to separate fights or act as another authority figure in kids’ lives.

“We’re not there to be security or place rules on them. If you see an argument happening, like hey, how can I de-escalate the situation?” he said.

The dads may also have to contend with what CCSD Police Chief Mike Blackeye has called a “new ingredient” of parents coming onto school campuses and committing acts of violence against students.

Last month, Desert Oasis High School was locked down for two consecutive days after several fights broke out, culminating in the arrest of a man, a juvenile and nine juvenile citations. In another incident, a woman was accused of hitting two teenage girls with her SUV in Henderson after she saw them fighting with her daughter.

Martinez said it will be Dads in Schools’ responsibility to bring awareness to the community and hopes to involve parents that are hoping to effect positive change in the program.

“Parents, they’re frustrated too,” Martinez said. “They can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.”

For more information on Dads in Schools and how to volunteer, visit dadsinschools.com or apply online through the district’s website.