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What is a Crossing Guard?

Harriette Halepis
Harriette Halepis

A crossing guard is a specially trained person who helps young school children cross busy streets by halting traffic with a stop sign. These individuals can be found in the United States, Canada, England, Australia, and New Zealand, though they tend to go by different names depending upon the country.

In the United States and Canada, the term crossing guard applies to those people who help children cross streets. In the United Kingdom, these people are referred to as school crossing patrol officers; in New Zealand, they are known as school road patrol officers, and in Australia these people are called school crossing supervisors. While the names of these guards may change, the duties expected of these individuals are largely the same.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Crossing guards began to appear in various countries around the late 1920s. As cities and towns became more populated, many citizens began show concern for the safety of children who were expected to cross busy streets. Within New Zealand, both students and teachers may be selected to act as school crossing patrol officer. These individuals are trained by various New Zealand police departments as to the proper way to halt traffic. When a school crossing patrol officer raises a stop sign in New Zealand, all traffic must stop -- failure to stop can result in a hefty fine.

Within the United States, there are no set regulations for crossing guards. A crossing guard may be a member of the police department, a school teacher, a volunteer, a retired person, or almost anyone else. These crossing guards may or may not be given a wage, depending upon the state. This type of crossing guard informality has caused a large amount of debate within the United States, though the criteria for crossing guards has not changed since the late 1920s.

In most countries, crossing guards do not have any legal power. Unlike law enforcement officials, a crossing guard cannot write tickets or stop cars for other reasons. Still, a crossing guard may write down the license plate number of a car that violates a stopping law. These numbers are often given to local law enforcement officials, resulting in a traffic fines.

Crossing guards who are also law enforcement professionals may hand out tickets, since they do have legal authority. While the training that is given to crossing guards may vary from country to country, these individuals help many school children cross streets safely on a daily basis. Thus, the job of a crossing guard is an important one that should not be overlooked.

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