Denise Fillion, School Crossing Guard Supervisor for the Hartford Police Department (HPD) Traffic Division, sent a letter to the Milner School office dated August 22, 2017, informing the school that two crossing guard posts associated with the school would be closing. Fillion cited “low number of students” as the reason for closing the posts at the intersections of Albany Avenue and Vine Street, and Mather and Garden streets.
Adriena Baldwin, the mother of two students at Milner and secretary of its Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), thought that removing the crossing guards was a recipe for disaster and tragedy. Ms. Baldwin, the PTO, and AJ Johnson, Organizer for the Christian Activities Council, sprang into action by conducting their own survey.
The group monitored the intersection at Mather and Garden streets for two days. On November 13, forty-six children crossed, and on November 17, thirty-three children crossed. The parents were troubled to witness children, in the absence of a crossing guard, haphazardly crossing the street as cars ignored speed limits and traffic signals. Armed with their own action research, the PTO and AJ met with Ms. Fillion and Traffic Commander, Lieutenant Laureano. Unfortunately, the request was again denied due to the “stricter criteria” used by the traffic division to count the number of children crossing.
Tragedy did strike on January 16, 2018, when a speeding car hit Tina Fontanez and Catalina Melendez near 95 Vine Street, just steps away from Milner. Both women died. Although no children were injured, the two deaths alerted police to dangers flagged months prior by the organized parents. Police set up direct patrols on Vine Street the weeks following the accident that resulted in them issuing 25 citations for driving violations and making four DUI arrests. Subsequently, the HPD Traffic Division is restoring crossing guards to the sites requested thanks in large part to the power of organized parents.
With Hartford Public School Superintendent’s approved plan that includes relocating and restructuring Milner, the PTO is gearing up to launch a new safety campaign. Milner students in PK-5 will be relocated to Wish or SAND. Under the current policy, the new schools are close enough to the Milner neighborhood to render students ineligible for school bus service. However, parents are concerned about the safety of their young children having to walk long distances through neighborhoods that are unfortunately still plagued with criminal behavior. The PTO has already alerted HPS to the potential dangers, hopefully, HPS will listen to the parents on what’s best for their children and take action before tragedy strikes. (from the Christian Activities Council)