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School crossing guards don’t get the respect they deserve

And yet they don't get all the praise and respect they deserve By ,

Whether it’s 40 or -40 degrees outside, school crossing guards are always there to make sure our children safely get to the other side of the street. As hundreds of thousands of little Canadians go back to school this week, I thought it would be nice to pay tribute to all those valiant people who may not get all the praise and respect they deserve and are too often scorned by motorists.

The role of a school crossing guard
We all know what they look like: men and women wearing a bright jacket and wielding a stop sign to help kids cross the street. However, school crossing guards are much more than that, and not everyone is fit to become one.

These brave folks keep halting traffic in the name of child safety and therefore endure the wrath of car drivers who can’t get to work or home soon enough. Because they hate losing precious seconds, many won’t hesitate to express their frustration either with their horn, engine or some not-so-pleasant words. 

I have even seen a few drivers who barely avoided a collision with the crossing guard and the kids walking to the other side of the intersection because they dared not to obey the stop sign.

What makes a good crossing guard?
The Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) has published a document for authorities -- usually police officers or city counselors -- who train school crossing guards. In it we find a list of pre-requisites for the job including:

  • Be righteous and have a spotless criminal record (at least where crimes against children are concerned);
  • Be available during specific hours (it’s not a 9-to-5 job);
  • Be in good shape and have no vision or hearing problems;
  • Be open-minded and respectful of others (they must not discriminate children based on their race, gender, appearance or social status);
  • Be willing to learn (as mentioned there is some training involved).

What type of training do school crossing guards attend?
Essentially the basics like a general review of the highway safety code and the various road signs near schools (I know a few drivers who could certainly use this training!).
Training sessions also include details about the safe way to make pedestrians cross the street, as well as tips on how to properly interact with children and motorists who ignore the crossing guard’s instructions.

Do cyclists have to comply, too?
Yes. A good school crossing guard will usually tell cyclists to get off their bikes and walk across the street like any pedestrian. Cyclists who simply ride straight ahead must obey the stop sign like any car driver. 

Are ALL vehicles forced to stop?
Obviously, emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire trucks will always have priority. School crossing guards should also avoid stopping traffic anytime there’s a bus, tow truck, commercial truck or funeral procession. 
In Quebec, car drivers who fail to stop when prompted to by a school crossing guard will receive a fine and three demerit points.

School crossing guards are responsible for a parent’s most precious thing in life: their children. Waiting 30 seconds for kids to cross the street and the guard to return to the sidewalk is nothing compared to what would happen if police and/or paramedics needed to come in to save a little boy or girl who got hit by an idiot driver. 

So, please, let’s all show some respect and compassion for these people!


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