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Complaints Prompt NMS to Change Walking Policy

Newtown Middle School students now must have a note from their parents in order to walk and hang out in the center of town.

Newtown Middle School officials now are requiring students, who want to hang out with friends in the center of town after school rather than ride the bus home or be picked up, to obtain a signed note from their parents granting them permission, according to an e-mail sent late Thursday.

"Our community members have been contacting me all week because several groups of our students avoided near-misses with motorists, as they excitedly darted across the streets to see friends," middle school Principal Diane Sherlock said in an email sent to parents. "The previous week we had a serious police incident. This situation is an exceedingly dangerous one, and I am afraid if we do not take this sitatuion seriously, we will all be dealing with a tragedy."

The school has had a long standing practice of allowing students to be "walkers" on Friday, which has encouraged throngs of seventh and eighth graders to hang out in the center of town.

A couple of weeks ago, among several middle and high school students, which led to arrests of juveniles. Last Friday, more than 300 students remained in the center of town, according to Sherlock.

The change in practice to now require a note from students who want to remain in the center of town brings the Friday routine in line with every other day of the week when students also must present a note before being allowed to not board a bus or be picked up by a parent or guardian, officials said.

Police said they raised the issue and discrepancy in practice to Sherlock.

Today, Sept. 23 will be the first day of the change and will not apply to students who regularly walk home from school and will be issued special laminated passes for daily use, according to the principal. Every Friday going forward, students who are not regular walkers also must present a new note from their parents or guardians granting them permission to remain in town, Sherlock said.

onceuponanewtown September 23, 2011 at 12:37 PM
I agree with you! People need to realize that these ARE children and have much to learn, inconvenient as it is for those rushing around - it only takes a moment to stop and realize this is an opportunity to help shape future members of our community...
John Munro September 23, 2011 at 12:40 PM
My comment is not one meant to blame the principal or police for their assessments. They are correct that with the kids out there risks to them do increase. Hopefully, the arrests for fighting will deter that behavior in the future and I'm sure the kids help the local economy.
Carla Kron September 23, 2011 at 01:20 PM
These kids simply want to be together. How about giving them something to do. I would propose that Edmond Town Hall have a 3pm matinee on Friday afternoon. It is within walking distance and would actually be someplace for these kids to go.
Mr. Bojangles September 23, 2011 at 03:12 PM
Teaching kids to cross the street is the responsibility of parents...not the schools. Let's not take away more curriculum time with lessons that should be taught at home.
Millard Fillmore September 23, 2011 at 03:28 PM
Let the children walk lest they turn slovenly and ungodly.
onceuponanewtown September 23, 2011 at 03:43 PM
Mr. Bojangles, I agree and I guess to me that is a given, but street safety has such importance I think a quick review at school or during the mandatory "Health" class would be a good idea as well. And am saddened by not reading any mention of safety education in the above article as one of the solutions to this concern. I can still remember using the turning and stopping signals for bike riding and which side of the street a "walker" vs "bicyclist" should be on for safety that I learned at school. This is in no way a substitution for basic parenting, but a suggestion to help further educate and keeps our kids safe from harm. Here are a couple of links: Walking Safety Rules: http://walking.about.com/od/beginners/a/safewalkingrule.htm Bike Safety Rules: http://www.mysticcommunitybikes.org/safety.html Bike Hand Signals and Safety: http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/publications/pdf_publications/dsd_a143.pdf I enjoy seeing the children out and about in the community ~ it shows that we as a community are alive and well and flourishing! I worry and care about all of them.
Bob Attanasio September 23, 2011 at 04:46 PM
Another example of a governmental agency overstepping their boundaries.
Bob Attanasio September 23, 2011 at 04:49 PM
But let's talk about walking protocol... every single day... I am amazed at people walking in the dark, wearing black, on the wrong sides of the road... sometimes with a dog on a long leash... almost as anoyong and dangerous as the bikers who ride three abreast on the weekends. People (adults) - please walk facing traffic and with your animal on a short leash.
Bob Attanasio September 23, 2011 at 04:50 PM
And leave the kids alone. After school is their time. The local merchants have a tremendous opportunity to work with the kids and not fear them. They need to think a little.
Jayne Long September 23, 2011 at 05:32 PM
We all need to cross the road at some time.....and kids need to know how to do it safely. You cannot protect them from everything. Why can't the schools cover street safety at the start of the year (for all grades). It was taught in my school when I was a child. Why not look at this problem from another angle? How about looking at ways it can be made safer for our younger citizens, instead of telling them they cannot or should not do it? Why not enforce the stopping of cars at crossings? Make the crossing more visible for the approaching cars? Enforce the speed limit and no cell phone use? Footpaths would be a great idea too! This problem won't go away, having a parent sign a note is the towns way of saying, we covered ourselves in case of an incident......I understand that, but it will not make the kids safer. Think outside of the box and I am sure there could be a better solution than this.
yoda September 23, 2011 at 07:13 PM
I'm teaching dance lessons, I'm getting in touch with my girly side, I have a mean two step!! R2 teaches as well, come down Sam!!!!
Mike Kelley September 23, 2011 at 08:36 PM
Am I wrong or wasn't President Fillmore close to 300 pounds? The kids can walk at home after they take the bus. Try Glen Road at night and very early in the morning before day break and all day long Bob when you have runners, (same ones always) on the wrong side of the road with no light, no reflective clothing and cars coming in the opposite direction. You either hit the brakes to let the other car pass or take a chance on hitting the runners. Been that way for years. Same way with the bicylces, so it is just not the kids, a lot of dumb adults out there as well.
Sam Mihailoff September 23, 2011 at 08:37 PM
If Mommie and Daddy saw how little Johnny and liitle Sally behave...even if it was on tape, they would deny it. Have you been to the Edmund Town Hall movie on a Friday night? Now, you want to reward them with a matinee...Oy vey
Sam Mihailoff September 23, 2011 at 08:44 PM
oh oh, Mike...you said "dumb adults" Hoa will now strike at any second and delete that horrid derogatory remark
Hawleyville Resident September 23, 2011 at 10:15 PM
Why can't the parents teach the kids how to cross the street? They should be teaching them street safety! As for paths, we made the paths, I have seen how some of these kids behave at Big-Y, dunkin donuts, etc. If the schools want to do something, have a meeting with the kids, explain to them how there actions reflect on them and their parents and the school when in public. Make them sign a code of conduct at the beginning of the year. But notes, what is that going to do? Nothing!
J. Griffin September 24, 2011 at 01:32 AM
The notes acknowledge the parents permission to allow the kids to walk afterschool. It puts the responsibility on the parents not the school. The schools do enough and should not be held accountable for what the children do after dismissal off school property.
Hawleyville Resident September 24, 2011 at 01:57 AM
Maybe I dont get it, why would the school be held responsible for the child after school hours?? At the high school, kids leave - school not responsible, why middle school would the school be responsible for the child after hours?
J. Griffin September 24, 2011 at 02:01 AM
You made the suggestion to have the schools facilitate a code of conduct with the students and you questioned the purpose of the notes from home.
Jennifer September 24, 2011 at 02:56 AM
Agreed! My complaints on this issue were not related as much to the independent movement of youngsters as the behavior those same cherubs exhibit while they are out and about among the public in this town. Safety is always a concern and I, for one, drive with an extra eye out for pedestrians of any kind around town. As the mother of a young teen myself, I am well aware of the developmental value of independence and increased autonomy but with that burgeoning adult license comes the burden of behaving responsibly as well. Socially acceptable behavior (in my opinion) does not include the liberal use of vulgarities regardless of audience, rude gesturing, destruction of personal or professional property, petty theft, heckling other customers or expecting drivers to anticipate and compensate for unwise pedestrian manouvers. Parents absolutely bear responsibility for teaching, modeling and correcting behavior and our slipping standards are sadly illustrated by the tolerance of this behavior. I don't have a problem with refreshing general safety about walking, crossing and safe travel similar to the bus safety films we had to watch every year but how about we also emphasize the need to behave with decorum so that respect can be earned?
Hawleyville Resident September 24, 2011 at 03:12 AM
and your point? A code of conduct is something that could be for on school grounds and off school grounds as a student of the school (representative - that even away from school you are expected to behave like you do in school) - again, not that the school should be held responsible, but if the issue the town merchants are having is the behavior of the child, maybe that would help?
J. Griffin September 24, 2011 at 10:07 AM
My point is to put the responsibility on the students who cant handle the priviledge and freedom to socialize in town and on their parents who allow them. Most of the kids know how to act, the schools all are now focused on character education in addition to teaching the curriculum. I was responding to the ideas that it's all the kids and the school staff should deal with it/
Dorothy September 24, 2011 at 11:16 AM
I was at Starbucks last Friday at 1:45pm when the manager came up to inform me that in about 15 minutes, 200 middle schoolers would be arriving. I asked him how he felt about that as I have a 7th grader who has asked to be a walker on Fridays. The manager stated that they were all pretty good kids and that they spent a lot of money at Starbucks on a weekly basis so he had absolutely no problem with the kids being there.
Bev September 24, 2011 at 11:50 AM
any parent that allows their child to walk or hang out in town should be there and see how wonderful they are, they chase buses,dart between cars, push each other toward moving cars, run along side moving buses yelling to kids in the buses,the bus drivers have complained for years that letting them go at the same time as all the buses is an accident waiting to happen, when one happens watch how fast they change how they dismiss. bev
Bodie September 24, 2011 at 01:55 PM
Yeah right............until it's your kid that gets hurt
BARBARA September 24, 2011 at 02:24 PM
Let the kids be kids! "hanging out" with their friends after school is a rite of passage! Having a note from a parent is also a good idea. Alot of these kids get picked up by their parents (meet me in front of the Big Y at 5).
Sawyer September 24, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Wasted time and tax dollars spent for police to babysit in merchants parking lots for social activities!
dave T September 24, 2011 at 07:25 PM
why the hell do we spend so much tax dollars on Busses? Only thing more annoying then commuting behind an empty bus is the 50 distracted caravans behind it... They need more homework... they wanna be social, have tyhem play a sport... idle time ends in tears at that age...
Chris September 25, 2011 at 01:34 PM
This has been a Middle School tradition for years. This is a learning moment for the administration, police and students. The permission slip creates more paperwork; it is eco-unfriendly and does not address the issue. The Middle School administration through stewardship can encourage & teach the children safety and responsibility for their action. The Police department can enhance their community reputation and visibility by walking around “downtown”. For the students, this is part of the maturity evolution, they need positive reinforcement and the opportunity to learn that poor judgment has consequences. The Police department recently conducted a crosswalk enforcement project in the center of town a few weeks ago. During the two-day crosswalk enforcement, police issued ten tickets to motorists for violations. This enforcement project, aka “sting cooperation” required the resources of three officers, one motorcycle and one un-marked vehicle. Let’s use our tax dollars more effectively, eliminate the surreptitious sting operations in front of the Middle School and increase the visibility of a police presence on Friday afternoons. Allow the children to patronize the merchants and enjoy their 2+ hours of “being a kid”.
Caren Wellman September 25, 2011 at 03:07 PM
I'm going to throw something at the wall here and see if it sticks. Why can't we figure out a way to clear a trail from NMS to NYA? What would be involved clearing a path over behind RIS? Could this be a community service idea for some high school students? If the NMS closes we really don't need to spend money on sidewalks along Queen Street, and in the meantime a trail would keep kids off the roads. NYA is the perfect destination for this age group and I believe their after school fee is minimal. This age group at NYA can support Newtown Deli (located at NYA), be loud, and get some exercise and perhaps be a solution that is a win win for all.
Sam Mihailoff September 25, 2011 at 05:01 PM
ok, school is now also responsible for walking safety for the tweens. store owners should embrace the volumes en masse patronage of the one pack of gum purchased and the numerous half-consumed bags of chips left on the shelves, motorists should assume the entire roadway around Queen and Church Hill in a half-mile radius is one giant crosswalk....GOTCHA!!! Great thinking

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