Monday, September 17, 2007
Help Me Howard: Crossing Guards
They keep students safe on the way to and from school. We're talking of course about crossing guards. But after one local city said they were cutting back on guards because of budget cuts, one South Florida mother dialed up Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser to see what could be done.
Carol Roberts: "They would be very surprised because I know a lot of parents don't know what's happening. They are fending for themselves."
The kids go to Paul Turner Elementary and Lauderhill Middle, a place to learn after you dodge the cars to get there.
Carol Roberts: "Since the beginning of the school year there has been no crossing guards. There's nobody out here, basically, directing anything. There's nobody to cross the kids."
We did spot two crossing guards at one school, but some intersections didn't have crossing guards at all. Without the guards the kids have to cross the street themselves, zigzagging around moving cars, racing across, as South Florida drivers roll by.
Carol Roberts: "The parents unfortunately are not obeying the speed limit. Some of them are doing 40, 50 miles per hour in the school zone."
So far, no kids have been injured, but Carol has two kids going to school, and she can see this tragedy coming a mile away.
Carol Roberts: "How many kids are going to be killed before they realize that we need the crossing guards?"
Carol's kids have gone here for nine years. They always had enough crossing guards at the school, 'til this year.
Carol Roberts: "When I spoke to someone in the school, they said Broward County cut some of the stuff out, but I need to speak to the city of Lauderhill. When I spoke to the lady at the city of Lauderhill, she said I must talk to the school board because the city has no money."
In a letter, the city said they planned to completely eliminate the crossing guards but then decided to put a few out there. Carol says picking some streets and some kids over others is, well ... Let her tell you.
Carol Roberts: "I thought it was a joke because I'm from Jamaica, and it's a third world country, and we have crossing guards, so how -- in the United States -- we don't have crossing guards?"
Well, Howard, can parents legally demand that their kids have a safe trip to school every day?
Howard Finkelstein: "The law mandates that cities and schools make it safe for the children. However, the law does not say how they have to do it or that they have use crossing guards. But if they cut the crossing guards, how can anybody say that it is safe?"
The Lauderhill mayor blames state-mandated tax cuts that have forced his city to the bare bones. He did admit they have the money to fully fund the crossing guards but have chosen to only put guards at critical intersections at this time.
When we asked him what's more important than the kids safety, he told us the kids are the most critical thing, but the city also has to fund police and fire. He added he does not think the kids are in danger. Parents, of course, disagree, and Howard says it's time for them to get to work.
Howard Finkelstein: "We hear all the time from elected officials that it's all about the kids. The city admits they have the money for the crossing, but they are gambling fewer guards will work. This is where parents need to make themselves heard loud and clear before a child is hit by a car."
And Carol is hoping other parents will join her in complaining to City Hall.
Carol Roberts: "The bottom line is that we are going to get the crossing guards back to have some form of organization in the mornings and in the evenings."
Patrick Fraser: "This all started when the legislature tried to cut property taxes to help taxpayers out, and, while cities, and counties are blaming the state for the cuts, don't forget, for the past few years, as property values soared, cities revenues soared, and they bought new equipment with that money. They gave pay raises with that money. Now parents like Carol are saying maybe instead of cutting crossing guards, they could cut somewhere else."
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