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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.

Anthony January 30, 2013 at 01:16 PM
"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" Unacceptable for them not to respond.
Keith January 30, 2013 at 04:28 PM
Kasko filming our children from a parked car sounds very creepy to me. Maybe the police should look into this.
JERSEY GIRL January 30, 2013 at 05:32 PM
While I applaud Mr. Kasko for having all the time in the world to pursue the events in town, ( traffic light on Central), I am concerned about the possible embarrasement to his children. Parents have to be talking about this, his children attend school in town, I hope he gives this some thought.
Jim January 30, 2013 at 05:45 PM
Keith, the story says he was taping crossing guards.
425 E, Broad St January 30, 2013 at 06:08 PM
Keep up the good work Greg. You have effectively changed the way Skibitsky, Gildea, Wayman, and others in their KoolAid Club conduct business and disseminate information. Their armor of arrogance has taken a hit.
Rusty Cut January 30, 2013 at 08:19 PM
The crossing guards in town do an excellent job keeping the kids safe and traffic flowing. I'm happy they are keeping some order around the schools, that includes the cars. This guy has way too much time on his hands - really feel bad for his kids.
Carpooler January 30, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Rusty, SOME of the guards do an excellent job. The guy at Dudley and Clark is out of control and the one on Westfield Ave wave his arms all over the place like he is trying to fly. I never know whether he is crossing kids, telling cars to go or trying to take off in flight.
Stuey O'Grady January 30, 2013 at 08:43 PM
Oh really, they do an excellent job? Tell that to the parents of the two kids that got hit in front of Edison when the crossing guard was keeping the traffic flowing. He played a game of Chicken with those kids and the car that hit them. Why aren't policemen at these busy intersections. Wasn't the previous crossing guard at Edison Jr. High the one that killed the lady on North Ave after he had a few pints after his crossing guard shift was over. Must be a stressful job. All the more reason fo a policeman to be there.
Sue Schultz January 30, 2013 at 09:52 PM
Why is the crossing guard telling all those cars to go through the stop sign? That is setting a very dangerous precedent to say the least. The video is a bit blurry but you can see him standing there in the middle of the road.
A.John Blake January 31, 2013 at 01:43 AM
I find it difficult to understand why the Town hands out the generalities and pablum it does through the administrator. If there were a statute in Title 39 which allowed the crossing guards to direct traffic, you can be sure Mr.Gildea would have quoted it. The crossing guards are there for the benefit of the children. When they are doing their job properly, children are being crossed and no cars are moving. When there are no children at the corner, the guards should be on the sidewalk doing nothing. I notice the comments again directed at Mr.Kasko personally. You obviously have some axe to grind with him when you act like Town Administrator and try to evade the truth of his statement by dissembling the facts to make it look like he is interfering with the guard. His pictures were taken when no children were present so the " fear" of someone interfering with the crossing of children is an absurd evasion of the necessity of answering Kasko's questions. Kasko asked a simple question. Who authorized the crossing guards to direct traffic when children were not being crossed? If there is a statute, let's have the number and the quote. If someone thought it was a good idea,say so but stop it. It is not legal. A.JohnBlake
NR9 January 31, 2013 at 03:07 AM
@Leslie TMA If what you are saying about Mr. Blake is true (and it very well might be – I have no reason to know otherwise), then yes, I agree that he did a terrible (really terrible!!!) thing on at least three occasions by driving drunk. That being said, your comment about Mr. Blake has nothing to do with the subject matter of this article which is whether or not Westfield’s school crossing guards have the authority to direct traffic. If school crossing guards do not have the authority to direct traffic, but do so anyway, and it seems from our mayor’s non-response on the topic that this is the case, then our town may be subject to a huge lawsuit someday if an accident occurs as a result of our school crossing guards directing traffic when they don’t have the legal authority to do so. That is the point of this article. Furthermore (and this is not a response to Leslie TMA but just my own additional comment)… Patch Editor Elizabeth Alterman wrote above that “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.” For Gildea/Skibitsky to not respond (after more than 3 weeks) to that question from Patch and/or Kasko, citing corresponding NJ motor vehicle law text, is reprehensible.
Elizabeth Alterman (Editor) January 31, 2013 at 03:17 AM
Hi NR9, I have also contacted the NJ Department of Transportation for clarification on this. In the same email to Town Administrator Jim Gildea and Mayor Andy Skibitsky, I also asked about when the HAWK light on North Ave. in front of Lord & Taylor might be installed, as I know pedestrian safety is on the minds of many readers, but again, received no response on that. If I receive any new information, I will post an update. Thanks, Liz
Lame Duck January 31, 2013 at 03:23 AM
Skibitty is a lame duck mayor that has overstayed his welcome. Where is the transparency? Time for a new Mayor (not Neylan) and for the town to move in a different direction with a new administrator without ties to this community that got him the job in the first place.
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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