September 24, 2004 > Road Wars: Return of the Safety Patrol
Road Wars: Return of the Safety Patrol
by Karthik Raman
The beginning of the school year often puts parents and students in a daze - back-to-school shopping and adjustments of class and teacher schedules. At the same time, the Fremont Police Department, the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) and the California State Automobile Association (CSAA) have trained new 5th and 6th graders to be Junior Safety Patrol officers. They will help keep students safe during the morning and afternoon drop off/ pickup rush.
The Junior Safety Patrol program began in Fremont over 30 years ago. There are 31elementary schools that take part in this program including three private schools. Every school has a coordinator (either a parent volunteer or school staff member) who organizes and supervises the program. The 5th and 6th graders apply to be Junior Safety Patrol officers and are selected by merit, attendance and good citizenship. "The safety patrol only uses 5th and 6th graders because they have maturity," says Officer John Flynn, one of the safety patrol program coordinators at the Fremont Police Department.
Each patrol member is assigned a post at crosswalks. According to Officer Flynn, there is one main change in the program. "More children are driven to school as opposed to walking." he says. This is why some schools have set up "valet" positions. Valets help to load and unload the cars, helping to make this process go quickly.
The Police Department provides training and safety lectures for the Junior Patrol Officers throughout the city. As part of the training, they provide a video produced by AAA (American Automobile Association) that shows how to give proper signals, deal with uncooperative drivers / parents, and much more. Often Community Service Officer Codey or Officer Flynn visit schools prior to the School Year and speak to the Junior Patrol Officers about their responsibilities.
John Gomes School has participated in the program for quite a few years. Past Gomes Safety Patrol Coordinator Kristie Turner used to be a Student Traffic Safety Patrol guard when she was in the 6th grade in 1964. When she became the coordinator, only 12-15 volunteers participated at Gomes. The program has now been modified and simplified so participants work one day during the week - a shift in the morning and another in the afternoon. "This is the system that has worked best the last couple of years. Each student has one day to remember. The amount of absenteeism is minimal. I also made the student responsible for recruiting their own substitutes in the event they could not make their shift."
The program has grown to about 100 volunteers each year however the schedule only supports 62 Junior Safety Patrol Officers. Ms. Turner has graduated with her youngest son to Hopkins Junior High School this year but says with pride, "I feel that I'm passing on a program that works."
Current Safety Coordinator, Barbara Fuhs, says she became involved in the program as a parent volunteer in 2001. "I think one of the strengths of the program is that it gets the students safely to school," she says. On the day before school begins, the Junior Safety Patrol Officers are given an orange vest, a badge, a whistle and a yellow rain jacket to wear during the winter rains.
If drivers do not cooperate and ignore traffic rules, patrols take down the license plate number. These numbers are then printed in the weekly parent bulletin. Repeat offender license plate numbers are sent to the Police Department.
Parents and other adults can do their part by driving with extra care, being cautious in school areas, observing the 25 mph speed limit and paying close attention to pedestrians.