After being struck by a vehicle across from his school, the life of young Teone Lancaster, 8, will never, at least in his mind, be the same. The second grade student at LaSalle Elementary School in northwest Washington, was tossed in the air, hit the concrete, knocked unconscious and almost lost his life. The accident left him without many of his permanent teeth and with facial scars.
“I’m not handsome anymore,” Teone told his mother, Teana Lancaster. “Nobody is going to like me anymore. I am never going to get married,” his mother remembered Teone said.
“I assured him that he was still handsome and that as time passed things would get better,” said his mother.
According to the mother, the students were let out early on March 30 for Spring break. More than 30 parents, teachers, students and neighbors said there was no crossing guard on duty that day. According to Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes, Teone’s incident happened around 12:38 pm.
However, John Lisle, director of communications for the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT), said there was a crossing guard on duty right in front of the school on Friday at Riggs and Nicholson Street. “It does not appear that is where the student chose to cross the road. The guard says she was on post from 7-9am and from 11am-1pm since it was a half day,” said Lisle.
The mother said her son told her he looked both ways twice before deciding to cross the street after he did not see any vehicles. But as soon as Teone got in the middle of the street a speeding car hit him. The student was taken to Children’s National Medical Center where he was later reported in stable condition.
Trenita Collins, a neighbor and parent at the school said, “With the many changes in traffic patterns in the area due to the two big construction projects we have tried unsuccessfully to get additional crossing guards and other safety calming devices around the school.”
LaSalle has one crossing guard assigned to it. But parents claim with the new traffic pattern surrounding the school with two major construction projects, more crossing guards, a traffic light at the school and other traffic calming devices are needed.
According to a school-by-school account of DDOT’s manpower at public schools, including charters, there are 200 crossing guards on staff and 23 vacancies. ‘We find it strange that some schools have four crossing guards, while others have none or one when schools like ours should have at least two working at all times,” said Collins.
DDOT was on hand at the DOES mature job fair held on March 29 to recruit seniors as crossing guards. “We lose about six guards a month and we are working with DOES to fill the vacancies as quickly as possible. In addition, we use our crossing guard supervisors and traffic control officers to cover posts when guards are absent,” said Lisle.
John Townsend, public relations manager for the American Automotive Association (AAA), said the District should also consider revamping its concept of speed camera placement.
Townsend noted in Montgomery County and Baltimore, Md., the bulk of the speed cameras are stationed at schools, unlike the District, where speed cameras are at busy intersections and parkways. There are no speed cameras around District schools, only unmanned flashing lights that indicate 15 mph zones.
“If children come first then make their safety on the streets first also. At very minimum, crossing guards and safety patrols should be in place until a reasonable time has passed for students to vacate the school premises,” said Townsend. AAA is willing to train students and parents to set up safety patrols throughout the District.