I don’t think this issue requires much of an introduction because the debate over paying for crossing guards within the City of Alexandria has been an issue for most of the past years. The existing system in which crossing guards are paid for by the City of Alexandria is simply not something that works anymore in this new world of added budgetary constraint. And actually, as budgets get tighter, this will likely be only the first of many many such debates along the lines of what services should be provided and if so by whom.
This crossing guard issue hits to the core of what the purpose of local government really is. Governments are formed to use the combined resources of a community to deliver to that community products or services for which it would be either prohibitively expensive or impractical for individuals to provide themselves. Crossing guards, however, are simply not one of those resources that require special government funding and regulation.
If you look at this local issue, these crossing guards are serving to protect the safety of a small number of school children who walk from their homes within certain neighborhoods to their schools within those same neighborhoods. Basically, this is a neighborhood issue and one that should be dealt with at the neighborhood level. There is not a single neighborhood in CenLa with a need for crossing guards that does not have at least one community organization. Nor is there a single school to which these crossing guards provide service that does not have a parents’ association. What I’m saying is that for those children, schools, and parents who seek the protection of crossing guards, they already have at their local level a series of support mechanisms available and active to provide such a service. In addition to this, these same neighborhoods are often serviced by at least one or more churches, at least one or more fraternities, sororities, or other social-service organization, AND, the majority of times at which crossing guards are needed (mostly in the mornings because in the afternoon less traffic competes with children) are the same times when parents, grandparents, and other family of these children are not at work. And really, let’s be honest, in some of the neighborhoods in Alexandria where crossing guards are needed, many parents of these children are not working or receiving some sort of government aide, which means they have nothing keeping them from walking their own children to and from school themselves.
Consider me rude. Consider me closed minded, unsupportive, or what have you. But I don’t think it takes a genius to point out that whereas child safety is always needed, providing that needed safety and support is something that should and can be accomplished at the local school/neighborhood/family/household level.
A good friend and I discussed this a bit the other night, and as he pointed out, every school in Rapides Parish has a highly paid Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Deputy called an SRO or School Resource Officer. That person is intended to be the primary link between that school community and the law enforcement community. For all intents and purposes, when it comes to law enforcement, that SRO owns his school. Why is the city or the school board even concerning itself with crossing guards, and why are we paying people to be crossing guards when that SRO is supposed to be overseeing the various law enforcement and safety issues for that school?
From the RPSO website: “The Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office has 60 School Resource Officers stationed throughout Rapides Parish schools. Every elementary, middle and senior high school in the parish has a School Resource Officer, including the private schools. Their primary responsibility is the safety of the students and faculty.”
Certainly, one SRO cannot act as crossing guard at every intersection where protection is needed. However, he could coordinate a team of parents, family, and community volunteers who would (and should) give their time to provide that service. Even beyond that, say volunteers are unavailable, how many law enforcement personnel work for the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Department? How many other law enforcement divisions or employees with police powers are already around and on the clock (and thus being paid from public coffers) at any given time when these children are walking to and from school?
My point is this: neither the City nor the School Board should be paying one single dime beyond what is already budgeted for the police departments to protect the children of our communities on their way to and from school. Law enforcement officials sometimes complain that they do not have enough involvement and contact with youth and that this makes it difficult to engage them and to create and maintain dialog with the communities they serve.
End this ridiculous debate, save your school system and city money better used for educating children and running the city, and volunteer your officers to man those intersections and maintain the safety and security of the school children of our city and parish.