If the Crossing Guard Safety Act passes, guards will carry similar status to police officers, firefighters, traffic enforcement and emergency personnel.
“It will provide equal protection, so if someone assaults a crossing guard it’s a felony and not a misdemeanor,” Miller said. “The public will know there’s consequences for that.”
Miller said he joined in the effort to push for the additional protection after hearing about several incidents in recent years where on-duty crossing guards were spit at and intimidated.
“This is why I have agreed to co-sponsor the Crossing Guard Safety Act,” he said. “Those who intentionally assault and injure crossing guards while performing their civil duties will be held accountable and charged accordingly.”
He added that he is hopeful it will pass the same way Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a similar bill into law last August that provides protection to city sanitation workers.
Miller and DenDekker announced their push for the bill with the 104th Police Precinct Community Council and representatives from various unions at the 3rd Annual Crossing Guard Appreciation Day ceremony at the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council, 59-03 Summerfield St.
Crossing guards honored at this year’s ceremonies were Theresa Smith and Kathleen Riehl from P.S. 88 and Civita Forte from P.S. 68.
Forte has been a crossing guard for the last 12 years. Dozens of preschool students marched at the ceremony chanting, “Team Tina.”
“It’s a wonderful feeling, especially when you see the little ones saying good morning,” Forte said of the children she helps cross the street to school every day.
Forte did however say she has also dealt with angry drivers and passersby over the years.
“It’s good if they pass the bill, because you get a lot of things happening in the street,” she said.
“We must do what we can to protect our children and to protect those who protect our children,” said DenDekker, the bill’s main sponsor. “School crossing guards are the only things standing between our children and motor vehicles.”
Lawrence Kenchen, legislation coordinator with Local 327 of DC 37, said there have been dozens of incidents that make this additional protection necessary.
“Every day there’s an incident,” Kenchen said. “We’ve had school crossing guards who have been killed and put in hospitals.”
While the bill is currently under review by the Assembly Codes Committee, if passed, those who verbally or physically attack a crossing guard will be charged with a minimum Class D felony of assault in the second degree.
“We’ve pushed and pushed to try to get them more protection and it wasn’t happening,” Kenchen said. “Now I think the bill will bring attention to the public that they can’t be harassed the way they’ve been harassed over the last several years.”