Cleveland's school crossing guard crisis: Who's responsible? Carl Monday investigates

Cleveland's school crossing guard crisis: Who's responsible? Carl Monday investigates

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Three years after Cleveland 19 first exposed a lack of school crossing guards, students are still at being put at risk with 77 jobs and crosswalks left empty.

Our investigation revealed some crossing guard posts have been vacant since 2015.

Debbie Sanney has been a school crossing guard for the city of Cleveland for the past 15 years.

She's assigned to the busy intersection of Madison Avenue and West Boulevard protecting children on their way to and from Marion Seltzer Elementary School just a couple blocks away.

"It's a dangerous intersection here," says Sanney.

Kids are dodging buses, emergency vehicles from a nearby fire station and reckless drivers.

"They run the red light, they turn right on red, they just have no regard for humans. Period," she said.

Sometimes there are tragic results. Last year, Sanney said she watched as a motorist crashed the intersection, seriously injuring young boy walking to Marion Seltzer School.

At least a crossing guard is stationed at Madison and West Boulevard.

Several blocks down the street at West 98th Street and Madison Avenue there is supposed to be another guard to help keep kids safe.  This school year, the corner stands empty. No one has been hired.

"There should be crossing guards on every corner," said parent Robert Milsap. As we discovered, that's not the case.

Our interactive map shown below, reveals the vacant posts for the 2017-2018 school year.

According to the city's public records, approximately one out of every four crossing guard positions are vacant.

The city has failed to hire the required crossing guards -- a job that pays about $20 an hour. Of the 77 vacant posts, 27 have been unattended since 2015.

Some intersections have two crossing guard positions where both are vacant

Here's a listing of the corners that have been vacant for three years:

It's a problem that won't go away for the City of Cleveland.

"It's a little crazy, especially at this intersection right here. Got to be careful," said Cristopher Bates, a concerned parent.

Careful, because there's no crossing guard and hasn't been one since the middle of last school year at George Washington Carver located Cleveland's well-traveled East 55th Street.

"There needs to be a crossing guard back right there. It's dangerous for the kids at this corner," Bates said.

Crossing guards are also responsible for operating flashing school zone lights, reminding motorists to slow down to twenty miles per hour.

Our investigative team found several of those lights were not working because there wasn't a guard there with a key to turn them on. No crossing guards and no school zone lights - a recipe for disaster.

All Cleveland school crossing guards are hired by the Cleveland Division of Police, on the recommendation of the city council member in the ward where the position is located.

Our review of public records shows 15 out of 17 city council members have crossing guard vacancies.

Our investigative team has requested copies of crossing guard applications and the dates they were submitted to CPD by each council member.

"My problem has always been dealing with the city. Especially with these last years, it's just insane trying to get a person on the job," explained Councilman Mike Polensek.

Polensek only has one crossing guard vacancy in his ward, but that position has been vacant for three years.

According to Councilman Polensek, even when he recommends a qualified person,  city takes forever to make the hire.

"I can tell you, if you appoint a person, it could be six months before that person is hired. Think about that. Today, it could be six months before the school guard gets here and the school year could be over before you hire them. It's ridiculous," Polensek said.

Councilman Matt Zone has six crossing guard openings. He, too, blames the city of Cleveland.

"There probably isn't a week that my office isn't making a referral on this. And the lag time on this creates the problem," Zone said.

Councilman Jeff Johnson said he has been trying to hire four crossing guards in his ward too. He's had to resort to soliciting volunteers to cross the kids. Volunteers who haven't undergone a background or drug test required of all crossing guard applicants.

"It's almost like they think this something that is routine. But the moment a child gets hit on a site that should have had a guard, then you'll see the obligatory outcry from the leadership" Johnson said.

Who’s running the crossing guard program?

We went to Cleveland Police Headquarters to the Office of Community Policing to try and talk to the people in charge after multiple requests for an on-camera interview were ignored.

Community Police Commander Johnny Johnson escorted us to the exit stating "no answers" and "have a good day" repeatedly.

Instead of answering our questions, Commander Johnson asked us to speak with CPD's public information officers.

Our investigative team made numerous requests through Cleveland Police's public information officers for an interview with those in charge a week prior.

The request, shown below, was submitted three times.

One week later, and sending three times, a Cleveland police information officer acknowledged and denied our request for an interview. The officer asked our team to submit a list of questions instead. The questions were submitted shortly after receiving instruction - and remain unanswered.

Meanwhile, year after year, dozens of street corners remain unattended without crossing guards.

Children being put at risk, and we continue to ask why.

So many questions remain unanswered. Who is supervising the crossing guards who are working? Are they clocking in and out? How do you know they are showing up to their posts and who fills in when one calls off? Who is monitoring the crossing guards held responsible for keeping your kids safe?

We'll keep asking questions and digging for answers.

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