EDITOR'S COMMENTARY

Becoming a WatchDOG

Forty years ago I walked my oldest son to his first kindergarten class. He was five years old and I was a lot younger then. Thoughts of security never entered my mind. Back then, kindergarten was only a half-day program, and from what I remember, the crowning jewel of the week was chocolate milk on Friday.

There wasn’t much to worry about. Things turned out pretty well. Along with his four younger brothers, all have received a great education, all are college graduates and all are contributing in a meaningful way to society. I don’t remember security being an issue from kindergarten to high school graduation for any of my sons.

In August, I drove my only granddaughter to kindergarten for the first time. Security is a huge issue, so as we approached the school, I began looking for security measures already in place. I’m pleased to write that her kindergarten, or K-4, campus seems to have taken all the necessary security measures. Trust me, I checked them all. I also asked plenty of questions.

I did something new for me; I signed up for a background check to become a member of the WatchD.O.G.S. I am officially a WatchDOG. The program is pretty simple, and I’m sure it is in place at more than just my granddaughter’s school district. If not, it should be.

My first, and only, day so far as a WatchDOG worked out something like this. I arrived at the school wearing my official WatchD.O.G.S T-shirt. Having completed a background check, my credentials are already approved and I have a badge that is scanned when I arrive to begin my duties. This starts at the front of the school where parents drive to a designated drop-off point. Parents do not get out of their cars, but instead assigned students and staff along with a Watch- DOG open car doors to get the incoming students out and into the school. Students enter the school, which is monitored by staff.

I almost forgot to mention that the principal of the school works the car line every morning, greeting students as they arrive at school. In her second year as principal, does she know all the students by name? Not yet, but she’s working on it. There are more than 650 students.

At 7:20 a.m., the school is buttoned up as secure and tight as a clam. Any late arrivals have to go through the office for verification.

The duties of the WatchDOG vary, but every volunteer is able to spend some time with their child, or in my case, a granddaughter. Every 50 minutes or so, the WatchDOG is on the move throughout the school attending other classes and helping teachers with already planned assignments, and helping the students with math, literacy or reading a book. After those 50 minutes in the classroom, it is back into the hallway to make sure things are as they should be. Calm and quiet.

The pace of WatchDOG work quickly hastens as lunch time rolls around. Students are ushered into the dining area but unless they are given permission, they sit, eat, and of course, joke around a little bit. Seems a little harsh at first but the plan is to have lunch and get back to class. The WatchDOG assists school staff in making sure the students have what they need, such as eating utensils, water to drink or make their way through the lunch line. It is a quick process but there are classes that quickly follow their lunch time. One thing that became apparent to me is the number of school staff that are present to ensure student safety.

I am glad I became a WatchDOG. I get the impression that many fathers have signed up to spend a day with their child and fellow students. I’m pleased to see that parents, or grandparents, are taking an active role in making sure their students’ campus is safe and secure.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of Campus Security Today.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is the Publisher of Security Today magazine.

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