By Bill Parry
A pair of lawmakers from the borough are hoping their bill, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Monday, will fix the shortage of school crossing guards.
State Sen. Jose Peralta’s (D-East Elmhurst) Crossing Guard Safety Act became law, making an assault on one an automatic felony with jail terms of up to seven years. Previous assaults on crossing guards were considered a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail.
“We are now doing something to ensure the safety of school crossing guards,” Peralta said. “In performing their important work they are often the subject of verbal abuse and even violence. That abuse and violence help explain why we have 200 school crossing guard vacancies across the city. By showing the respect their job warrants and demonstrating that we have their backs, I believe that we will be able to recruit enough new guards to fill existing vacancies and address emerging needs.”
The bill was sponsored in the by Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst). “They are invaluable to maintaining public safety across New York state, and deserve the same protections as other uniformed safety officials,” he said. “This law will provide these much-needed protections to all crossing guards, and will hopefully encourage others to apply to fill vacant positions in this highly important profession.”
Santos Crespo, president of Local 372 of AFSCME said the new law tells the crossing guards — low-wage, part-time workers, mostly women — that they afforded the same protection as police officers.
“Throughout the years I’ve gotten over a thousand personal complaints about assaults and nothing was ever done about them because the penalty was so lax,” he said. “People would throw things at the guards, threatening to run over them with a car, those kinds of things. Now there’s a heavy penalty for that kind of conduct.”
Crespo added that the bill protects all crossing guards throughout New York state, both union and non-union.
In addition, employees from the New York City Housing Authority will benefit from similar, more enhanced protections and penalties.
“This critically important legislation will better protect hardworking employees who are charged with keeping children and families safe,” Cuomo said. “I thank the bills’ sponsors for their hard work in making these new protections a reality.”
The bill was introduced by Peralta in 2012.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.