As some of you who follow me on facebook and twitter know, I have been in a state of blind fury the last couple of days. I'd like to tell everyone what's been going on.
Oldest is 11 and in 5th grade. She is a volunteer Safety Patrol which means she wears a yellow belt and a badge and she makes sure the kids board the bus safely and behave on the bus. She also makes sure to take the kindergartners to and from the bus. That's her job. Except our bus stop is on a very heavily congested road with heavy rush hour traffic in the morning. We deal with speeders, honkers, jerks who try to beat the school bus, a very large elderly driving population, and lots of mercedes drivers. This is a very unsafe road. On top of this, even after 10 years of complaints, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has never done anything to address this situation even though there is no safe way for the kids to cross this dangerous street. There is no stop sign - no crosswalk. Ironically, there is a no left and no right turn on an intersecting street that goes into a nearby neighborhood. That sign was put up in order to protect the property value of that neighborhood because (1) the traffic on our street is so heavy that it would devalue the neighborhood and destroy the streets, and (2) a councilmember lives there. When some crazy vandal destroyed these signs 3 times last year, DOT sent a crew to fix that sign within days of it happening.
As you can see DOT values property value over children's safety. So getting back to my story. A parent who was nearly hit several times crossing the street with her young child harassed DOT so much that they finally sent an employee to our school bus stop to assess the situation. This woman went up to my 11 year old daughter and told her that it was her job as safety patrol to walk into the middle of oncoming rush hour traffic, hold up her hands and stop traffic in order to allow children to cross to the bus stop safely. Since when did we send children into danger to guarantee the safety of other children? Should we next give them a gun and tell them to stop crime also? This is a street even adults are afraid to cross, let alone try to actively stop traffic? Did I mention that we had an excessive number of mercedes drivers in the area? We have incredibly selfish assholes who will even race around a stopped school bus in order to not get stuck behind it. We are talking about people who don't care. And I should let my child walk into that?
What is most troubling about this episode is not that this county employee was so deeply misguided enough to endanger a child's life, but that in response to repeated attempts by parents to address the danger surrounding this school bus stop that this was the only response.
This employee told the complaining parent to have my daughter stop traffic for her. The parent was misguided enough to - the very next day - follow through on the employee's advice and tried to wave my daughter into oncoming traffic. I actually stood flabbergasted watching her insist my daughter come out into the street and my daughter shaking her head, over and over until finally the woman crossed on her own. My daughter knows that she is not allowed to cross this street and refused to do as the county employee demanded even though she was terribly intimidated by this woman. My daughter knew enough to stand her ground. But what if it was a different child who maybe was too naive to question authority? What if this employee had indeed persuaded a child to walk into traffic? That idea kept me awake at night.
I've made a big stink and called and wrote to everyone I could think of. Today the supervisor of the misguided employee came to observe and to apologize for the employee's mistake. They say that there are talks of getting stop signs in and crosswalks. I'm not holding my breath. Already I'm being given the bureaucratic run around in an endless game of hot potato as different offices pass the issue off to someone else. I've spent nearly a week making my arguments. I've warned the county of their negligence for failure to address the danger. I reminded them that legally there is a higher duty of care toward children. In the end, getting a stop sign and crosswalk in place will be much cheaper. And it will help save lives. Unfortunately, in these situations, it usually takes a death to justify the expense of change. And that is depressing.