May 28, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Sallie Robertson and Effie Tucker, both 73, appear to be the sweetest retirees anyone would ever want to me. But that never protected the former New York City school crossing guards from the outrageous behavior of boneheaded motorists who make the job of ushering kids to class every day a very dangerous occupation.
“We were out there and we know what it’s all about,” Robertson told LaborPress on Tuesday. “People would drive right by you and either say, ‘Get your butt out the street,’ spit at you, throw things or try to hit you.”
Tucker, meanwhile, spent nearly 40 years safeguarding New York City School kids in Brooklyn before a brush with an unhinged driver at the corner of Bergen Street and Troy Avenue in 2009 convinced her it was time to leave.
“I put my hand out, blew my whistle, and called the kids across,” Tucker recalled. “Then this guy on his cell phone started coming right at me. I yelled and told the kids to run. Then he went right around me. A few months after that I said let me get out of here before I get killed.”
The hostile conditions on Gotham's roadways has convinced Local 372, the union representing school crossing guards, that the city needs to toughen penalties imposed on anyone dumb enough to try assaulting members like Robertson and Tucker.
Under existing law, assaulting bus drivers, train operators and other municipal workers is considered a felony offense and carries as much as a seven-year prison sentence.
And last year, Governor Cuomo backed a pair of new measures that also made assaulting school crossing guards, as well as NYCHA workers, a felon offense.
But advocates say that school crossing guards remain vulnerable out on the streets.
“That [seven-year] bill has been out for years, but crossing guards still get disrespected, and it’s not right,” Local 372 President Shaun Francois I said earlier this week.
In March, the driver of an SUV sideswiped and injured 76-year-old school crossing guard Marie Cox at the corner of 82nd Street and 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens. According to published reports, the motorist remained at the scene and was not charged.
“The disrespect for school crossing guards must end,” Councilmember Daniel Dromm [D-25thDistrict] also said on Tuesday. “I have seen drivers spit at [crossing guards]. I have seen drivers drive towards [crossing guards]. And I have seen drivers curse out their windows at our school crossing guards. That must end.”
Tucker was originally laid-off back in 1975 during the time of New York City’s economic free-fall. However, she later accepted an invitation to rejoin the ranks of the city’s school crossing guards as soon as it was offered. Even though back then, the salary for school crossing guards only amounted to a few bucks an hour.
“I was more than happy to come back because I always loved the children,” Tucker said.