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Resident Questions Council on Authority of Crossing Guards

Town Adminstrator says Title 39 allows guards to "alleviate" traffic backup.

If that headline sounds vaguely familiar it's because Westfield resident Greg Kasko spoke before the Westfield Board of Education on Thursday, Jan. 4 to question who is giving crossing guards the authority to wave vehicles through stop signs once children have safely crossed through an intersection.

Kasko, a father of two children who regularly walk to school, said he was speaking out of concern for their safety following an incident in which two children were struck by a car outside Edison Intermediate School.

At the time, Kasko was told by Board President Richard Mattessich that while he believed crossing guards did not have the authority to direct traffic, guards are employed by the Town of Westfield and he would need to check with Town Administrator Jim Gildea for an answer.

While waiting for an answer, Kasko emailed every member of the Westfield Town Council and Mayor Andy Skibitsky to express his concerns and relate incidents he has witnessed in which accidents have nearly occurred as a result of crossing guards waving vehicles through stop signs. 

At Tuesday evening's Town Council meeting, Kasko thanked Council members Mark LoGrippo and David Haas for responding to his email. He said again that he is concerned as a parent and is unaware of any state law that allows civilian crossing guards to direct traffic. He also noted that he'd sent a letter to Westfield Police Traffic Safety Sgt. Jason McErlean relating the same concerns but did not receive a response.

If I'm wrong, please present me with the law, Kasko stated, and added "until given a state statute, I'll continue."

Following Kasko's comments, Gildea stated that it was one year ago that Kasko sent his letter to the police department and Gildea said former Chief John Parizeau responded to it. Gildea then referenced Title 39, something he said he thought Kasko, a former police officer would already be familiar with, and stated that while directing traffic is not a crossing guard's main priority, they are able to alleviate some of the traffic caused by crossing students by waving through a handful of vehicles. 

Further, Gildea asked Kasko to stop video taping crossing guards as it disrupts them in carrying out their duties. 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 without any students in the vicinity. 

Following the meeting, Kasko told Patch that the letter he received from Parizeau merely thanked him for the information but did not shed any light on who is giving crossing guards the authority to direct traffic. He also said it seemed unlikely that he was "interfering" with the crossing guard's duties from inside a car parked 150 feet away without any children present and again expressed his wish that the council would allow residents a chance to respond rather than only being allowed to speak once per meeting.

Patch sent an email to both Gildea and Skibitsky asking for clarification on the crossing guards' authority on Jan. 8 but no response has been received as of press time.

klubkleb January 31, 2013 at 01:05 PM
If crossing guards are not permitted to direct traffic, they should be. Or else a real police officer should be at Westfield/Park/Dorian. It is a traffic nightmare with far too many close calls due to delayed drivers taking matters into their own hands and recklessly cutting around other cars, racing across the intersection, etc. There's a real cop at Rahway/Dorian and he is excellent keeping that intersection clear and the cars moving. The poor sucker at Westfield/Park/Dorian doesn't know anything about directing traffic and should be replaced by a cop.
NR9 February 01, 2013 at 06:47 PM
@ Sarah Sloan... What's most important to this discussion is that we discuss what will make our roads/crossings safest for our children, adults, pets etc. crossing the street and that we also try and reduce potential liability to our town if an accident is caused by crossing guards not following the law. If true (and it very well might be - I have no reason to know), Mr. Blake's drinking/driving history is very, very disturbing. However, attacking him as a person does nothing to further the topic at hand. It just suggests that you have no good points to support your position on this topic (whatever that position may be).
NR9 February 01, 2013 at 06:52 PM
@Elizabeth Alterman. Thanks for your reply AND thanks for what you are doing to investigate/research this topic. On a different topic - Why do comments from Patch staff (like your comment to me in this thread) not come through as emails to those who are "following" comments. I just stumbled on your comment to me from Wednesday but otherwise would not have seen it. Is there something about Patch staff account settings that is not allowing your comments to go through like reader comments? Does an adjustment need to be made to those settings? Thanks.
paul February 02, 2013 at 07:48 PM
from NJ State Statute 40A:9-154.4. Crossing Guard 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.
Tammy Schmidt March 29, 2013 at 02:53 PM
The one at Dudley and Clark is a retired traffic cop and the one at Westfield ave is a retired firemen..I think they would know a thing or two about directing traffic. I'd like to see any of you people get out there and try do deal with that..especially at a four way intersection, dealing with kids...CARPOOLERS in their fancy SUV's and teenage drivers..who else is going to go out there in the snow and rain and heat for $ 15 an hour..I suggest all of you people get a life and stop harrassing these guys. They do a good job.

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