The woman adored by west-end children and parents as the “dancing crossing guard” may have had her last waltz.
Kathleen Byers became a local fixture as she strutted, sashayed and swirled her way across Dufferin St. with her safety vest and stop sign, guiding students at Alexander Muir/Gladstone Ave. public school and Grove Community School to the beat of music from portable speakers. But Wednesday morning, police told her the dancing had to stop.
“I was essentially told not to bring my music, not to dance, not to dance without music, and when I asked if I could exercise, just light movement, I was told not to do that as well,” Byers said. “So essentially I guess they wanted me to stand there, which isn’t me at all.”
Maybe so, but that doesn't make it "safe":Byers, 64, has been a crossing guard for 10 years and she’s been dancing for almost four. There have been no accidents involving children on her watch, she said.
Crossing guards are regulated through the Toronto Police Service’s traffic department. Byers was featured in a video posted on the police YouTube channel in late September, but a supervisor in the traffic department later had concerns that she was not following proper procedures, said spokesman Const. Clint Stibbe.For example, her stop sign is not always visible to drivers when she does her dance moves, and sometimes she dances across the street with children instead of stopping in the middle of the intersection before letting them come out, he said.
“We have to make sure the directions she’s giving drivers are clear,” Stibbe said. “So essentially we’re asking her to do her job properly and clearly so drivers and pedestrians are clear what’s happening and there’s no confusion or risk to a child.
“We’ve directed her to focus on her task at hand, which obviously is to get the children across the road safely.”
Though, of course, none has occurred on her watch while she's been dancing.Even her dancing on the sidewalk could be a distraction to drivers that could put other pedestrians at risk, he said — something police are paying close attention to as the number of pedestrians killed in traffic collisions has surged this year.
Gee, do you think more crossing guards should take up the practice?