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Posted at 3:00 PM ET, 02/17/2010

How to keep kids safe en route to school

By Valerie Strauss


Look at this photograph in today's Washington Post. This should never happen.

Kids should not be forced to walk alone on a busy street, huddled together for safety.

This happened because school started in the greater Washington region even though all the sidewalks and streets were not completely plowed after a historic snowfall.

After a week of snow days, I agree that it was untenable to keep the schools closed much longer. But all the same, students shouldn’t have been forced onto dangerous roads to get there.

Here's one part of the solution: Every principal should create and dispatch a team of adults to the feeder streets around the school to help children who are walking get to the building safely. If teachers need staff inside the school building preparing for the day, then citizen volunteers can be sought; after all, many of them answered pleas to shovel snow so schools could open.

This would be an adult version of the School Safety Patrols that some schools have now, which empower kids to help others navigate streets. (This is something Bill Clinton and I have in common: He was a member of his school patrol, and I was a member of mine). When the snow finally melts, more schools could consider implementing student patrols, or using a combination of adults and students.

Furthermore, school officials and/or the PTAs at each school should organize a group of parents to shovel the sidewalks on the way to school. They could do this in just a few hours.

We've been lucky so far that nobody has yet been hurt. That isn’t a reason to keep gambling.

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By Valerie Strauss  | February 17, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Tags:  snow days  
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Valerie, there is another whole paradigm out there that more and more people are turning to especially in this time of uncertain weather and certain violence. That is the HOME SCHOOL choice. In our state (NC) it has become very popular. There are over 50,000 families that home school here. The kids aren't so happy about going to the basement to study on what is a "snow day" for the regualar schools though! But we don't have them on the roads for two hours a day in the bus and subjected to the violence that pervades almost every school these days. That just means they are able to study for two more hours and get through earlier. In NC to home school, we just have to register with the NC Dept of Non-Public Education, name our school, agree to keep roll, admister EOG tests and send them a copy, and have classes for 180 days a year. That means we can choose to go on vacation whenever it is convenient and cheap for us, and tons of other flexibility. Also, our 16 yr old is now dual enrolled here at home and in the local community college, where he is now taking computer classes (for college credit). Also, consider this, when he wants to go to a 4yr College, then he just has to Transfer, not go through the full blown frenshman entrance process. My thoughs. Also, our school never closes for weather. Dan

Posted by: danbiddell | February 17, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Enact a death penalty for running over a child in ANY situation, and the kids would be fine. The premise of the author is ridiculous. Kids can scramble over a snow pile and walk the streets. Meanwhile, there's nowhere a motorist is going that justifies being careless about a pedestrian. Especially kids. Want to protect kids? Penalize, severely, adults that harm kids. Stop with the coddling.

Posted by: JamesChristian | February 17, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Instead of really severe penalties for drivers that harm child pedestrians, any driver who even fails to yield to a pedestrian who has the right of way should be sentenced to walk along that stretch of road several times, at various times of day, and in various kinds of weather. We don't need tougher laws to protect pedestrians; we need more drivers spending time as pedestrians and finding out what it's like. (Although I am in favor of public drawing and quartering for those drivers who think it's funny to deliberately swerve through puddles to drench pedestrians!)

Posted by: sideswiththekids | February 18, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

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