By Christina Villacorte, Los Angeles Daily News | http://bit.ly/P5BFIl
3/05/14, 3:56 PM PST | Weeks after a mother was killed walking her daughter to school, the county Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to deploy crossing guards at certain middle schools in unincorporated areas.
While its previous policy covered only elementary schools, now the county’s Department of Public Works and Office of Education can post the guards near middle schools if there’s evidence of unusually complicated intersections or heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
“This is a step forward,” said Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who filed the motion.
Testifying before the board, parent Michelle Dowd said a pilot program that put a crossing guard near Rosemont Middle School in La Crescenta has kept parents and children safe, and she urged the supervisors to expand the service throughout the county.
“I can’t emphasize the importance of having a crossing guard at our middle school,” the mother of two said. “These junior high school children are walking to and from school in an environment filled with cellphone users, frantic drivers, quiet fuel-efficient cars, social priorities, poor street visibility and poor pedestrian accommodations.
“At the junior high school level, parents do not walk their children to and from school like they do in the grade-school years, which makes having crossing guards in middle schools so very important,” she added.
Robbyn Battles, with the La Crescenta Valley Town Council, said going to school can be hazardous.
“I have personally spent four years standing on the corner with principals and public works (personnel) ... as we watched near-misses happen on a daily occurrence,” she told the board.
Currently, the county spends $2.4 million on crossing guards at elementary schools. Adding middle schools would bring the total to $3.2 million.
Department of Public Works director Gail Farber said children and teenagers are particularly vulnerable on streets and crosswalks, based on data collected by the state.
“There were 1,767 pedestrians between the ages of 5 and 14 killed or injured in California in 2011, accounting for over 13 percent of all pedestrians killed or injured in California during the same year,” she wrote in a report to the board.
Crossing guards bring benefits over and above safety.
“By enhancing middle school students’ route to school, more students could be expected to start walking to or from school, which would improve the overall health of these students,” Farber said. “Additionally, by reducing the number of students being dropped off or picked up in cars, congestion around schools would improve, enhancing the overall safety for these school areas and air quality.”
Marleni Barrera, 42, was killed Feb. 11 when a big rig hit her as she was escorting her fourth-grade daughter to a charter school on the campus of Joseph Le Conte Middle School in Hollywood. The city of Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation said it was not able to respond to multiple requests for a crossing guard in the area because of “limited resources.”
[see: http://bit.ly/1hQUng6] LeConte Middle School is not in an unincorporated part of LA County; crossing guards in the City of LA are the purview of LA City’s DOT. Following the death of Marleni Barrera Thirteenth District City Councilperson Mitch O'Farrell has placed a crossing guard at the Le Conte/Citizens of the World Charter crosswalk, paid from his discretionary account …and he gets a huge thank you from 4LAKids for that!
But school safety should not be discretionary; the lives of students and parents cannot be subject to “limited resources”. Hopefully the City of LA will follow the county supe’s lead.