By Mike Steely
I was attending the opening of the West View Park’s Storybook Trail recently when I noticed the hundreds of students coming into the park from the nearby elementary school for the ceremony. Among those young kids were several who wore neon safety patrol harnesses. The color of the harness was striking and stood out among the numbers of kids, as it should.
It took me back to my childhood and my 4th and 5th grade when I was on my school’s safety patrol. Being a member and, the last year, captain of about half-a-dozen other students taught me several things. Among those, is how to raise, lower and fold the American Flag properly.
Our student patrol was basically a crossing guard, holding back students from the busy streets before and after classes. We had one crossing several blocks away and always had one or two safety patrol members at each crossing. Occasionally we would stop traffic for students to cross.
In the final year, we were given orange plastic helmets that helped with our visibility.
Dealing with traffic and especially with students was a learning experience. The duties of today’s school safety patrol members are a bit different depending on each school’s program.
At West View I chatted with three of the safety patrol members and their supervisor, Susan Martin, the Community Schools Site Coordinator for West View and Norwood elementary schools. She identified the 5th-grade students as Magali Tovar Correon, Hunter Haun and Kahleya Brown. She said each of the students had their parents’ permission to use their photo.
The Knox County School Superintendent’s office told The Focus that safety patrols are set up and administered by each school. The American Automobile Association is involved with supplying harnesses and instructions for the schools if requested.
Powell Elementary School, for example, notes that students selected for its safety patrol represent the most dependable and most caring and those who would do well in a leadership position.
Every nine weeks, 5th-grade teachers look at the grades of their students and based on guidelines nominate safety patrol members. Those with a 4.2 grade average or higher are viewed and the top 25 are nominated, selecting 15 for morning duties and 10 for the afternoon according to the Powell Elementary website.
Megan Cooper is the Tennessee AAA Public and Government Relations Consultant and said the association’s safety patrol participation began in 1920. “We could not be prouder of the students who dedicate their time before and after school each day to ensure the safety of their classmates,” Cooper said.
In addition to harnesses, the AAA provides schools with access to training materials and videos, a program operations manual and a tool kit of information and guidance. All schools new to the program are offered a free first order that includes belts, badges, handbooks, recording forms and a training DVD and additional help in setting up a program.
More information on the AAA School Safety Program is available at AAA.com/SafetyPatrol.