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.