Crossing Guard Issue Raised Again at Westfield Town Council Meeting

Resident questions authority of guards.

Westfield resident Greg Kasko again asked the Town Council at Tuesday night's meeting who in Westfield authorized civilian crossing guards to direct traffic through stop signs in the absence of children crossing and what is the specific statute that allows for this. 

Kasko has spoken before the Westfield Board of Education and the council previously to ask who has given crossing guards the authority to direct traffic in a law enforcement manner. A father of two, the Westfield resident said he is concerned in light of the accident in which two Edison Intermediate School children were struck by a car in the crosswalk.

At last week's meeting, Town Administrator Jim Gildea referenced Title 39 and stated that while directing traffic is not the crossing guards' main priority, they are able to alleviate some of the traffic caused by crossing students by waving through a handful of vehicles. 

Tuesday evening, Kasko said he is still looking for an elected official to point him toward the state law that governs this.

Town attorney Russell Finestein then handed Kasko the following two statutes:

40A:9-154.4. Stations; time period

The chief of police or other chief law enforcement officer of a municipality shall have the right to position school crossing guards on any street or highway within the municipality; provided, however, that such guards may be stationed only when it is necessary to control or direct vehicular or pedestrian traffic during those time periods of a school day when it is necessary to control traffic or during any special event or program involving pedestrian crossings whenever it is deemed to be in the best interests of public safety.

39:4-80.1 Penalty for failure to comply with school crossing guard's signal to stop.

1. A motor vehicle operator who fails to comply with a school crossing guard's signal to stop during those time periods when that guard is duly authorized to control or direct vehicular or pedestrian traffic pursuant to section 4 of P.L.1979, c.82 (C.40A:9-154.4) shall be fined not less than $150 for a first offense. For a subsequent offense, the operator shall be fined not less than $300. 

Kasko said he is not referring to either of those but rather to 39:4-144 (see below) as his issue with the guards pertains to their waving cars through stop signs after children have safely crossed through the intersection. 

39:4-144. Stop sign/Yield sign 

No driver of a vehicle or street car shall enter upon or cross an intersecting street marked with a "stop" sign unless he has first brought his vehicle or street car to a complete stop at a point within 5 feet of the nearest crosswalk or stop line marked upon the pavement at the near side of the intersecting street and shall proceed only after yielding the right of way to all traffic on the intersecting street which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No driver of a vehicle or street car shall enter upon or cross an intersecting street marked with a "yield right of way" sign without first slowing to a reasonable speed for existing conditions and visibility, stopping if necessary, and the driver shall yield the right of way to all traffic on the intersecting street which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard; unless, in either case, he is otherwise directed to proceed by a traffic or police officer or traffic control signal, or as provided in section 39:4-145 of this Title.

At the end of the meeting, Mayor Andy Skibitsky told Kasko that residents aren't really concerned about crossing guards directing traffic, but they are concerned about "you secretly taping our crossing guards and perhaps our children at the same time."

That didn't happen, Kasko said from the audience. On his blog The Fact of the Matter Kasko has posted footage of the Westfield Avenue and Park Street/Dorian Road intersection in which it appears a guard is directing traffic through a stop sign without any students in the vicinity. 

Cathy February 06, 2013 at 01:10 PM
Without the crossing guards helping alleviate backups the traffic around the schools would be unbearable. They do a wonderful job. The guards at Roosevelt are fabulous and without them there would be gridlock. I find an adult male sitting alone in a car videotaping near the schools disturbing. I understand he claims to not be filming children, however, there is no proof to this. He simply did not post footage with children in it. Its very unsettling to think he has photographs of our children.
Alaska February 06, 2013 at 01:38 PM
Is this the story about "The boy that cried wolf" how does this end again?
Carol February 06, 2013 at 01:44 PM
If you don't like the traffic backup why not drop your child off a block or two before the school or utilize the walking school bus as my child does? I, for one, am glad this topic is being addressed. The video I saw here at the Patch in a previous story and on Mr. Kasko's website shows crossing guards directing traffic and not photographs of children. To assume he has photos or video of children is an attempt to divert from the real problem and that is that some of the towns crossing guards are putting the safety of our children and drivers at risk. Not surprised that two students were struck by a car at Edison school because of a grossing guard.
Starbucker February 06, 2013 at 01:51 PM
Cathy, I couldn't agree with you more. How dare this man prevent me from getting to Starbucks any later than my thirst quench for a Grande Mocha Double Latte with a tad sprinkle of butternut,should allow. Besides, my little darling should be chauffeured door to door, it saves me money on those expensive Ugg boot soles grinding down on gritty sidewalks. God forbid the salt and snow stains on the fine Australian fur.
Cathy February 06, 2013 at 02:29 PM
A self edited video without children in it in no way means he did not take any video with children. It just means he did not post that footage. There is no real problem with the guards. BTW - some of us are not dropping kids off, rather just going to work.
RDZ February 06, 2013 at 02:31 PM
Maybe Kasko could provide the ratio between children crossed vs vehicle on children related incidents in the last 10 years. To make it simple for him or anyone else who disputes the job of these fine people, how many graduates did WHS produce from 2002-2012 vs how may vehicle related accidents occurred in a school zone from 2002-2012 which involved vehicle on pedestrian. I am sure the results will show that the crossing guards are doing a great job.
Blue Uniform February 06, 2013 at 03:44 PM
The issue here is the safety of pedestrians walking to and from school. Mr. Kasko has touched the surface of a greater problem and that is training. Currently, school crossing guards receive a couple of hours of training and are thrust into a position where they are expected to do a job that police officers receive days of training to do. At a time when Mayor Skibitsky wants to do more with less resources, crossing guards are expected to take on responsibilities they are not trained to do. If the law allows it, train the crossing guards to direct traffic properly and accidents like the one at Edison might be avoided. With an intimate knowledge of crossing guard training, Westfield crossing guards do receive enough and the mayor does don't want to spent the money to train them. He is making cuts in public safety, not increasing it.
Emily February 06, 2013 at 03:50 PM
There IS a problem with crossing guards directing traffic. Near RIS my mom was waved through a stop sign by the crossing guard and was hit by a young girl driving a car coming through the other way. She struck my mom's car, admitted fault, and many witnesses agreed the young girl was at fault. However, the court said it was my mon's fault for going through a stop sign and she had to pay for the damages. Unless the crossing guard is a cop, their job is NOT to direct traffic when kids around. You all would probably think the same thing if this happened to you.
NR9 February 06, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Emily's comment above is the point being made by Kasko, and especially if major injuries (or worse) were to occur. The issue is not of skill/training but of liability and what a civilian crossing guard is and is not allowed to do according to the law. If a civilian crossing guard (who might be great at their job) directs a driver to proceed through a stop sign (without stopping) and an accident takes place and there are major injuries (or worse) then the town may be subjecting itself to significant $ liability if sued by the injured parties. It's clear there is some degree of exposure when our politicians know the civilian crossing guards are doing this, are encouraging them to do this, but are not willing to respond when it's brought to their attention that the law forbids this.The civilian crossing guards I've watched in action tend to be great at what they do and many are probably more skilled at it than most police officers. But, the civilian crossing guards don’t have the legal authority to do all they are doing. In fairness to our politicians, maybe the right answer is to keep the civilian crossing guards and just take our chances on possible injuries/litigation. If you compare the cost of a civilian crossing guard to the cost of a police officer, it might make more sense to stick with the less expensive civilian crossing guards and risk injuries/litigation. But, Kasko’s point, and Emily’s comment, should not be ignored by our politicians- there is an issue here.
DPW Worker February 06, 2013 at 05:18 PM
Emily, Can you provide a date, and intersection location of this accident? It would lend to the credibility of your post.
DPW Worker February 06, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Why isn't Skibitsky criticizing Kasko for posting a video of a Westfield DPW worker spending over two hours in the afternoon at his girlfriends house when he should have been plowing municipal parking lots after a major 24" snowstorm 2 years ago? The backhoe was parked in the driveway on Woodbrook Circle while they took an extended break together. Skibitsky won't because it exposes the mismanagement issues with his DPW superintendent Claude. The Mayor like to disparage Mr. Kasko to take the attention off the problem. Do another "white sheet" analysis on our DPW mayor. Ask Claude where he hides all the money for our past party.
RDZ February 06, 2013 at 05:36 PM
Our town officials are probably unwilling to respond because this guy Kasko is waiting with baited breath for someone to say the wrong word and/or act a certain way which would allow Kasko to point out their faults and jump all over the situation. The guy is a rabble-rouser who is just looking to cause trouble or stir the pot on every issue. Personally I feel bad for our mayor and town council. These people devote their time to the good of Westfield, time which could be spent with their families and for what? You would think citizens would stand up at the podium and say thank you for the work you do and thank you for doing your part to make Westfield a great place in which to live and raise a family. But no, instead they get people like Kasko who's only position in life is to point out what these volunteers are doing wrong. Again, sir, if you despise Westfield as much as it seems and can not deal with the issues the town has to overcome, the real estate market is coming back I am sure someone would be glad to purchase your home.
Emily February 06, 2013 at 06:30 PM
It happened probably 6 years ago at one of the direct RIS corners. Believe it or not, I don't spend my days searching Patch articles that I can make up stories about. If my post doesn't hold enough "credibility" so be it. I'm just offering one perspective on the topic that I don't think should be overlooked.
Cathy February 06, 2013 at 06:53 PM
I'm surprised at the court since I assume the police report was accurate and you did not mention the responding officer issuing either one of you a ticket and generally auto insurance covers such matters.
Emily February 06, 2013 at 07:06 PM
If my memory serves, I believe the officer issued a ticket against her, which she brought to court and lost in whatever lower court would handle that case. She decided not to pursue it further, as it would cost more fees (lawyer, etc.). I don't really remember all the details though.
EDISON PARENT February 06, 2013 at 08:25 PM
John Q February 06, 2013 at 08:39 PM
Right on RDZ! How dare anyone question the mayor and town council. We should all be grateful for their volunteer service! You Know what, shame on those volunteers for choosing to spend more time at city hall than with their families. Wit a second, I forgot which side of the issue I am on. What was the issue again? RDZ, help me out, I got so tied up in your response that I forgot what the problem was. Was the story about vplunteer council people or about someone breathing heavy, or families being deprived of their loved ones? I guess I have to go back and read the story again.
W February 06, 2013 at 09:15 PM
Heard the crossing guard that was directing traffic in front of Edison when those kids got hit by a car was canned by the town.
RDZ February 06, 2013 at 09:21 PM
John Q, you want to question be my guest but to stand up there and berate the council on every single issue that arises, it just gets old. Furthermore you do know this guy has an entire website trying to discredit the council, dpw, police force, and probably everyone on the towns payroll down to the secretary in the tax collectors office. I am sure if you take yourself outside the situation however connected to this Kasko you are, you too will be able to recognize the insanity in creating and frequently updating such a malicious webpage. Unfortunately until then one must question you, not only for standing behind this person but also for your total lack of ability to use a tool as easy as spell check.
A.John Blake February 06, 2013 at 10:00 PM
Sir/madam, You are correct that the elected Town Officials do not get enough credit for the time they spend and the work they do. Please remember though that they are not just volunteers, they ran for office and spent large sums of money to get those positions. Going into the job they knew they would be required to answer to the voters for the choices they would make as elected officials.Knowing this every one of them promised transparency and accepted the duty to respond. I am tired of listening to elected officials complain that they are required to answer and explain. Their desire to run for office and their election does not bestow omnipotence and, as long as the voter asks factual questions, the elected have a duty to answer and not claim a lack of praise as a deterrent to further questions. No one is insulting the Mayor and Council. Questions seeking information are perfectly proper. This facade of volunteer status is belied every election year. A.John Blake
Tamaques Parent February 06, 2013 at 11:01 PM
A.John Blake February 07, 2013 at 01:26 AM
Sir, The Town officials run for office and spend large amounts of money to get a position which they well know comes with the necessity of listening to critics and responding to factual adverse comment.Iin England it is referred to as " the Loyal Opposition"? We are not talking about a "good Samaritan" who has rushed in as a volunteer on the spur of the moment. We are referring to politicians who have worked for years inside their party just to get the Party endorsement and then knocked themselves out against the opposing party candidate to get the job.There is nothing shocking to them that they must face factual critics who question their omnipotence. If the person criticizing the politician is not correct in his facts, the politician will swoop down on the critic's error and make him look foolish. The only time the politician has a problem is when the critic is correct. Then the politician either remains silent or attacks the critic personally rather than on the subject of the criticism. Let's not paint the politicians with this aura of volunteerism and give them the burden of ingratitude by the critic. The politician has what he wanted, he has to take the good with the bad. .JohnBlake
RDZ February 07, 2013 at 01:48 PM
Mr Blake, let me apologize for I do not want you to think I feel criticizing and/or questioning our elected officials is inappropriate. With that being said I am sure you are able to recognize Mr. Kasko has definitely stepped outside the realm of proper ways to seek/request information. I am not sure if you have seen his website and the content which can be referred to best as dribble. Do you really think photo shopping a persons head atop an ice cream sundae is appropriate? Or how about extending the nose of the town administrator as a reference to Pinocchio? The problem with Kasko is he is a bully, he isn't searching for information he is on a quest to discredit and destroy. I will cite the blurb he wrote on his website dated November 16th 2012, titled "Mismanagement". In this he ridicules the DPW for putting up Christmas lights when debris from Sandy was still on the ground. Now I am sure if those Christmas lights did not go up it would have read "DPW and Town Council: Anti-Christmas" or some rubbish. With the impending snow storm, I'll bet you a glass of what you wish at 16 Prospect that come time for the next council meeting this guy will be ranting and raving about the DPW's lack of ability to properly plow the streets. As if the town council should be able to melt snow with a snap of their finger. And in regards to the council's aura of volunteerism, I do not know many people in this day and age who would so much as leave the house for $1.00 per year.
DPW Worker February 07, 2013 at 03:57 PM
RDZ you need to tell it like it is. Mr. Kasko does not criticize us, he criticizes our boss who has no clue. I read the same story and he titled it with question marks. I agree with him that we should have been putting more men on cleaning up and put the lights on hold. You obviously don't like Mr. Kasko and call his story dribble but yet you read them. I am happy he is doing his site because it lets people know what goes on without employees like myself having to bring it up and then be harassed by my boss.
9RN February 07, 2013 at 07:36 PM
RDZ - fyi, A. John is Kasko's lawyer. also...it would be wise not to offer A John any drinks, we don't want him running over a crossing guard.
Sick of Kasko February 08, 2013 at 01:22 PM
RDZ February 08, 2013 at 02:07 PM
DPW Worker check out the article from 08/07/2012 on this guys site where he rips you and your colleagues a new one for improperly striping a parking lot. Still defending the dribble?
DPW Worker February 09, 2013 at 08:00 PM
RDZ, they put old guys on that job. They should have trimmed the grass and blew the lot clean of debris. They are lazy. I wasn't on that job but he is right that they did a crappy job. No excuse. Poor supervision.
S_O_G February 13, 2013 at 07:48 PM
Where can I send Mr Kasko a get well card? He must be really ill to prevent him from posting on this site (well at least under his own name). He is usually so vocal on issues, but he has not been posting recently (again, at least under his own name)


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