Hero School Crossing Guard Injured while Saving Child from Speeding Car
By Mary Alice Miller
School crossing guards put their lives on the line every day while helping children cross busy streets. At 8am on Wednesday, April 9, the unthinkable happened. School crossing guard Shameeka White pushed a child out of the way of a speeding car at Atlantic and Ralph Avenues. The child was unharmed, but 37-year-old White took the brunt of the impact. She was knocked to the ground and lost feeling on her left side. Her left arm and knee were fractured.
Despite her injuries, the first thing White asked was, “Is the child OK?”
“Ms. White exemplifies the courage and dedication these school crossing guards bring to the job every day yet, very often, they are ignored until a tragedy or fatality occurs,” said Local 372 President Santos Crespo, Jr., who heads the union representing all school crossing guards. Crespo was at Shameeka White’s bedside at Kings County Hospital almost immediately.
“This time we were lucky,” said Crespo. “Both student and guard are alive.”
It appears the driver made an illegal turn. The driver, whose identity was not revealed, roared up the street while blindly passing a stalled school bus that blocked his view of the child, the school crossing guard and a traffic sign clearly stating his turn was illegal. “The driver had no business trying to get around that bus,” said Crespo, “especially at the speed that he did because Shameeka said he came around there real fast.”
Two days after Shameeka White was hit, Bronx school crossing guard Lisa Nieves was also hit by a car. Nieves waited for the light to change to green, and then stepped off the curb to escort several children across the street. “I looked to the side and saw a maroon object,” said Nieves. “The next thing I know I am waking up in an ambulance. It was that quick.”
Crespo said despite sustaining serious injuries, both crossing guards are in fair condition. They are disoriented and experiencing what I call post-traumatic stress, said Crespo.
Both drivers remained at the scene. NYPD public information had no record of an arrest after the accidents.
Speaking of workplace safety, Crespo said the school crossing guard job is extremely hazardous. “These ladies and gentlemen – we do have a few males that do the job, but primarily they are ladies – they literally put their lives at risk every single day. They don’t know whether or not an approaching vehicle is going to see you, and if they do are they going to stop when they are supposed to stop,” said Crespo. “There is another factor: whether or not that vehicle is in proper condition to stop.” And, he added, “When it rains, or this winter with all that snow, it is 100 times worse because you have got the slipping and sliding that takes place and they still have to do their job escorting those kids.”
Crespo recommends that more crossing guards should be assigned to what he characterized as “very complicated long crossings where you get traffic [coming] from four, five, [or] sometimes six different directions.”
At the Atlantic and Ralph intersection, one side of Atlantic Avenue is in one precinct, while the other side is in another. White is assigned to the 81st Precinct side of Atlantic Avenue. When she inquired about placement of a crossing guard on the other side of Atlantic Avenue Crespo said she was told, “No, we are not putting anybody there.” White said, “I have taken it upon myself (from time to time) to get the kids across all the way over.”
Crespo said, “Atlantic Avenue is crazy. Shameeka has got traffic. Ralph is a two-way; Atlantic is a huge two-way. You have got traffic coming from four different directions.” He added, “Then you have got one guard. How insane is that?”
According to Crespo, the public needs to know these guards (for very little pay) put their lives on the line to protect kids every single day. “When they get hurt on the job like this, the best that they get in terms of an income is Workmens’ Compensation, which will give them 60% of what their total salary is,” said Crespo. “And their salary is low as is.”
Describing a typical scenario of crossing guard workplace injury Crespo said, “Here’s what happens: they are going to rush to get back on the job so they are not going to get well. And when they go back on the job, they may be behind the eight ball in terms of their household because they have already lost money. I am sure when the Comp officer asks them certain questions, they are going to say they are fine and they are not fine.”
In Shameeka’s case, she has two school-age children, said Crespo. “She has to make sure they are taken care of,” he said. “Lisa in the Bronx also has two children, but one is an adult. Her 15-year-old is the one she is going to worry about.”
Crespo believes there needs to be a way to properly compensate a school crossing guard who is injured on the job.
“Shameeka White is a heroine, our Wonder Woman, who thought quickly, pushed the child out of harm’s way and allowed her body to take the full force of a speeding car,” said Crespo. “That’s the character of New York City school crossing guards and we salute them. We hope the City of New York and the Police Department honors Shameeka White as well.”