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Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools dad calls for more parent involvement to deter crime

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Straws Call To Action
Courtesy Joseph Straws
Community members gather at Mt. Carmel Church of God in Christ after Joseph Straws put out a call-to-action following a violent incident between students at Schlagle High School.

A November stabbing at F.L. Schlagle High School in Kansas City, Kansas spurred parent to act.

Joseph Straws is graduate of Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools. He has one child who attends Gloria Willis Middle School, which feeds into F.L. Schlagle High School from where three of his children and his brother have all graduated.

Throughout the years, he's spent many days walking the halls of F.L. Schlagle supporting his kids in addition to mentoring students and DJing various events.

"I've actually been in the Schlagle family for a very, very long time," he said.

Before school began on November 9, 2021, students were gathered outside F.L Schlagle High School when a fight involving three students resulted in one student being stabbed with scissors and two students being taken into custody.

Although none of Straws' children attend the high school the news hit too close to home.

"This is happening right in my neighborhood," Straws said. "And kind of rocked me that morning."

The afternoon of the stabbing, Straws took to Facebook Live to rally community members.

"We gotta activate. We gotta get up and we gotta do something," the concerned father said in his video.

"The source of the problem today is the same source of the problem we had in the 90s Joe. A father problem," Jason Johnson commented.

A Louisiana program, which brings dads into schools as watchful eyes and positive reinforcements, caught the attention of Straws and Johnson.

The following week, Mt. Carmel Church of God in Christ saw concerned parents, community members, law enforcement, principals, pastors, the superintendent and Wyandotte's district attorney responding to Straws' call for action.

For bringing parents, community and school members together Wyandotte District Attorney Mark Dupree said, "I commend Mr. Straws" and echoed Straws' sentiment that it takes a community to enact positive change.

The meeting was equally a listening session and a call-to-action for Straws who said he didn't want to "reinvent the wheel" since several volunteer organizations already operate within the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools system.

"Let's listen to the work that's already being done and see how we can help enhance that work, as well as just to be present," he said.

Since the November meeting more than 30 people have begun background checks for clearance to volunteer within the schools, but more bodies are needed, according to Straws who posted a QR code on his Facebook feed for those who want to take part in the effort.

Straws stressed that volunteers don't need to spend 40 hours at the school to make a difference. One hour on a lunch break, or before or after school can help keep young students from making bad decisions.

"If we can just be there in that moment. I think that that helps out everybody. I think that's what the whole goal is," Straws said.

"It doesn't take a lot to get into these kids' lives because at the end of the day, if these kids see somebody that says, 'Hey, man, I care enough about you. I'm here. I just wanna talk to you'....That's all it really takes," Straws said.

Parent involvement isn't the only focus for this dad. Straws said he's working with the administration toward a future goal of having "youth representation on seventh street, on 57th street, which is our city courthouse, which is our board of education." He's also wanting to see more recreational activities for youth in Kansas City, Kansas.

For now, though, Straws says he's been walking the schools since students returned from winter break.

"As we get these people active, they're gonna start joining me, just walking around, talking to the kids, telling them hi, high-fiving them and trying to deter some of these issues that we see."

  • Joseph Straws, concerned parent in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools system
  • Mark Dupree, district attorney, Wyandotte County, Kansas
When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Elizabeth Ruiz is a freelance producer for KCUR’s Up To Date. Contact her at elizabeth@kcur.org or on Twitter at @er_bentley_ruiz