“Found (Fined?) in America”

ClassicCarIn the 1985 film “Lost in America,” starring the comedian Albert Brooks, a high flying advertising executive loses his job and finds himself (after several mishaps) broke and working as a school crossing guard – his only revenue stream. It appears Mr. Brooks isn’t the only one to appreciate the potential revenue stream from school crossing guards. With relatively little fanfare, Public Act 13-22, “An Act Concerning Increased Penalties For Failing to Stop For School Crossing Guards,” was passed, and became effective October 1, 2013. The Act increases the fine for first time offenders from a range of $100-$500, to a fixed $450. Fines for subsequent offenses remain at $500-$1,000, and/or imprisonment for up to thirty days.  This may seem innocuous enough until one considers possible ramifications of the revised law, in light of recent reports involving municipalities and boards of education that use a “live digital video school bus violation detection monitoring system” to catch and fine motorists who don’t stop for school busses displaying flashing red signal lights. See, e.g. article in The Times-Picayune,  and/or  traffic light cameras to catch and fine violators of traffic laws, please click here.

When Connecticut enacted its bus camera law in 2011,  allowing municipalities and boards of education to use a “live digital video school bus violation detection monitoring system, ” like Public Act 13-22 it also amended existing law to increase the fine for first time offenders from $100-$500, to a fixed $450, and kept the $500-$1,000 fines for subsequent offenses.

The 2013 revision to the crossing guard law also provides that upon receipt of a written report from a school crossing guard specifying the license plate number, color and type of any motor vehicle observed by the school crossing guard failing to stop for the school crossing guard, along with the date, approximate time and location of such violation, a police officer may issue a written warning or summons to the owner of such vehicle. Conn. Gen. Stat. §14-300f. Just how, in our age of the ubiquitous cell phone camera, do you suspect the dutiful crossing guard will carry out his/her mission? License number, color and type of vehicle, time and date? Just aim, focus, snap - it’s all provided instantly, and easily supplemented with the location when the report is written. “Here you are officer” the emailed report begins, “my report with an attached  photo,  may I suggest a  stiff fine ?”

With the revenue from nabbing one offender being roughly equivalent to one week of a school crossing guard’s wages, it may make sense to reimburse a crossing guard for use of his/her cell phone or, equip each crossing guard with a camera. It would not be surprising if law enforcement type duties became a more prominent part of the school crossing guard’s job training and evaluation. The next time you encounter a kindly school crossing guard, please remember to smile, he/she may be taking your picture!

This is part I of a two part article. Part II “Follow the Money” will appear in a future blog post.

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Alerts, commentary, and insights from the attorneys of Pullman & Comley’s School Law practice on federal and Connecticut law as it pertains to educational institutions, whether those institutions be public school districts, private K-12 schools, or post-secondary colleges and universities.

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