Westfield resident Greg Kasko spoke before the Board of Education Thursday evening to ask for clarification on the authority of crossing guards in light of the recent accident in which two children were hit by a car on their way to Edison Intermediate School.
Kasko, who regularly attends meetings of the Westfield Town Council to question the placement of the pedestrian activated HAWK signal on Central Avenue, began by recognizing the job that crossing guards do on a daily basis to protect children on their way to and from school.
"With that being said, about a year ago I contacted the Westfield Police Department regarding crossing guards directing traffic," Kasko said. "I had not gotten a response. I then went to the Town Council. Being that these crossing guards are employed by the Town of Westfield, I felt that they would lead me in the right direction of an answer. l did not get an answer."
Kasko said following the recent accident in which the children were not seriously injured and both returned to school the following day, he sent an email to Mayor Andy Skibitsky and members of the Town Council outlining four separate incidents he witnessed as a cyclist, a motorist and a pedestrian where accidents almost occurred because of crossing guards remaining in the roadway to direct cars after children had safely crossed.
"My question to you is 'Why are they directing traffic after their job of crossing students is completed and if so, who is giving them the authority to do so?" he said.
Kasko said his concerns are for his daughters, both of whom are crossed in the intersections, where accidents have occurred or have almost taken place. He then referenced the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) which he said is considered "the Bible for traffic safety officers and traffic safety engineers" which states that crossing guards are not supposed to be directing traffic in a law enforcement manner.
The following passage comes from the MUTCD
01 Adult crossing guards shall not direct traffic in the usual law enforcement regulatory sense. In the control of traffic, they shall pick opportune times to create a sufficient gap in the traffic flow. At these times, they shall stand in the roadway to indicate that pedestrians are about to use or are using the crosswalk, and that all vehicular traffic must stop.
"Standing in the middle of the roadway and directing vehicles through stop signs once children have crossed is directing traffic in a law enforcement manner," Kasko said. "I'm hoping that this will addressed and I'm hoping that I can get an answer."
BOE President Richard Mattessich said he was glad that the students were recovering quickly and agreed that the crossing guards do an excellent but added that the crossing guards report to the Town, not to the BOE.
"It is my understanding that they shouldn't be directing traffic unless they are also policemen or women," he said. "I don't believe that is their job but again, I don't make the rules with respect to the crossing guards. We can certainly talk to the Town Administrator, with whom we have an excellent relationship, and try to understand what the crossing guards are doing."
Mattessich asked schools superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan to confirm that she was looking into ways to make the intersection near Edison School and other intersections safer.
"Yes, that process has started but we can certainly continue," she said.