Faced with mounting safety concerns, Wichita, Kansas, school officials are bringing in more armed officers. But these officers won’t be patrolling hallways or lunchrooms. They’ll be out in the parking lotsand the guns they’ll carry will be radar guns.
In an effort to crack down on reckless driving on school campuses and beef up education about pedestrian, bicycle, and traffic safety, the district has hired two full-time traffic safety officers.
“Anyone who’s been in one of our high school parking lots when the kids get out at 3 o’clock knows the need we have for some kind of focused safety program,” said Galen Davis, director of safety services for the Wichita district.
The program, funded by a three-year, $293,000 grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation, is expected to begin within several weeks.
The traffic officers will supplement existing school security staff and Wichita police officers assigned to the district’s middle and high schools, Davis said.
“What it means for all grade levels is that there are two individuals whose full-time job is to help our children be safer,” he said. “We’re focusing on education as well as enforcement.”
A typical day for one officer might include speaking to kindergartners about crosswalk safety or seat belts, holding a bicycle safety session at a middle school, talking to high-schoolers about the dangers of drinking and driving, and patrolling a high school parking lot at day’s end.
Chuck McLean, principal at Northwest High School, welcomes the help.
“There’s definitely a little bit of ‘Get the you-know-what out of the way, here I come,'” McLean said. “I wish everyone would drive 10 miles an hour and be courteous to one another, but there are always going to be those kids who don’t want to follow the rules.”
Students who drive unsafely on school grounds don’t get city traffic citations. But they are issued school tickets and fined $10 for each infraction. After three ticketsor one particularly serious incidentthey can lose their driving privileges for the semester. n