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Austintown School crossing guard is struck, injured

Published: Tue, December 4, 2012 @ 12:04 a.m.

By susan tebben



A crossing guard was hit by a car and injured while directing traffic in front of Watson Elementary School in Austintown.

Kelly Rowbatham was helping students cross at a crosswalk on the north side of the school last Tuesday, after all vehicles had stopped on Idaho Road and the new school road, Lloyd Loop, according to Austintown school district officials.

A truck driven by an unidentified individual then made a right turn, hitting Rowbatham.

“We did do a police report because the car left after hitting her,” said Austintown Superintendent Vincent Colaluca. “People just need to be careful.”

Rowbatham’s elbow went into her rib cage when she was hit, causing injuries to her ribs, Colaluca said.

This incident comes less than a month after another crossing guard, Darcy Fletcher, was hit by a car while working at a crosswalk. Fletcher suffered a fractured skull after being hit by a vehicle that was rear-ended on Idaho Road. She has been released from the hospital, Colaluca said.

The schools are working with crossing guards and the Austintown Police Department to increase safety at crosswalks and school areas, along with construction workers to help the flow of traffic on Lloyd Loop and the surrounding roads.

“We are continuing to work with construction workers to relieve the traffic,” Colaluca said.

An investigation into whether the driver of the vehicle was a construction worker was done, but the schools and the police department determined it wasn’t one of the trucks from the in-progress school buildings. Because the driver did not stop, the only information the police have about the vehicle is the color.

“He bumped into her and just left,” said Dan Bokesch, director of curriculum at Austintown schools, who was also looking into the incident. “Whether he thought it was a big deal or not, he shouldn’t have left.”

Bokesch said due to the two injuries, police presence around schools during the beginning and end of the school days has increased and a re-striping of Idaho Road is planned. The third lane that runs between West Chester and Woodhurst roads will now be a turn lane, Bokesch said.

More money has been spent on fluorescent clothing for the guards and equipment with flashing lights, Bokesch said. A new handheld sign was used by three crossing guards starting Monday which Bokesch said had been working well.

“We are taking every precaution,” he said.

Austintown Police Chief Bob Gavalier said no charges are pending because of the lack of information about the driver of the truck.


1Crazygal(6 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

No information is sad, that person could have hit a child just as easy as hitting a crossing guard. It is not a matter of informing people what the problem is peoples total disregard for laws and other people. They believe they are the only one that matters so the other person is at fault. Never mind that these people are doing their job and also trying to keep all the children safe. Just as everyday my husband goes to work and tries to his job and people see him needing to park by the tanks to deliver gas and puts his cones out and people drive right in his way, yell and threaten him for doing his job, people are rude and inconsiderate of other people anymore. My dad taught me to treat others the way that I want treated, not thinking those hitting crossing guards or children, or abusing animals is how someone would wanted treated in return so maybe more should follow my dad's advice and think about how they would like something before acting. Smile and be kind it is contagious, you will see..

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2frkrygow(16 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Motor vehicles should be severely restricted within a quarter mile of any elementary or middle school. For schools not on main highways, only school employees, school buses and residents should be permitted to drive that close to a school. And streets near schools should have speed humps like those in the Glen area in Boardman, to force drivers to slow down.

A schools' greatest safety hazard is the doting parent chauffeurring their prince or princess, putting walkers and bicyclists at risk. Second greatest hazard is the "rat runner" motorist, shortcutting through residential areas.

So keep the cars out. Kids should be walking at least a quarter mile to school anyway.

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3AtownParent(565 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

frkygow - While the concept of no cars is a novel idea, that would be impossible in the ALSD because the Mensa members that run the district decided to have open enrollment. If they reverse open enrollment, then this would be possible, but until that (which won't happen until be get better individuals on the BOE) then not having cars is not possible. When you increase the traffic around your schools by 700 open enrollment students, you are going to have problems without proper planning.

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4endthismess(422 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Another one hit again! Come on Austintown! Get some control here!!!!! Get about this before someone FINALLY gets killed! Bunch of lack luster lame stuffy over paid lazy red tape pushing worthless bums!

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5AustintownMom(10 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

What I'd like to know is how they printed an entire story about my sister-in-law without contacting HER to find out exactly what happened. Yes, she was injured while crossing the kids, but most of the facts here are not correct and have been grossly exaggerated. Obviously something needs to be done about this situation. But instead of blowing everything up into a huge phenomenon, how about concentrating on doing what needs to be done and not throwing someone into the limelight who doesn't want to be there.

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6AustintownMom(10 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

My sister-in-law was not on Idaho Rd, and she was not "struck" by a car who fled the scene. She was pushed by a truck that was turning, and she doesn't believe the driver even realized that it happened. She has 3 cracked ribs...from the STOP sign hitting her (not her own elbow)...and she is not all broken up. She would rather see the time and effort spent on correcting the problems with the traffic than on speculating about her so-called experience.

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7AustintownMom(10 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

And just for the record, Colaluca and Bokesh weren't even present when the incident occurred, so how can they give statements to the press about it? Come on Vindicator, at least talk to a real witness if you aren't going to ask the actual victim about it.

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8AustintownMom(10 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm sorry that the site is acting up and won't let me post all of this as one comment...so I am filling up the board here...

But the statement that nothing is known about the vehicle is also false. My sis-in-law gave a description of the truck, along with a partial description of the driver. Why not report THAT so that maybe the guy would realize what happened and do the honorable thing...or that maybe someone he knows or works with can call the police and get this dealt with.

I am by no means trying to downplay what happened to my family member. She was injured on the job due to another's carelessness and lack of respect for the rules. But she doesn't want to be used as a martyr for the cause. Instead of having the focus on her, she would like to see these reports call into question what kinds of things can actually be done to prevent this from happening again.

And again, the BOE has no control over the public roads. Tell everyone to start calling the police department and demanding to know why they won't cross our children without being paid for a full 8-hour shift. Or why, when they are present at the crosswalks, they sit in their cars and do nothing to help the flow of traffic....or issue citations when they are warranted.

And lastly, the drivers themselves need to take responsibility for their own actions. Respect that you are driving through an area overrun with children.

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9AtownParent(565 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

It is not the police's problem, it is the administration and the BOE who put this mess into play. They need to fix the problem.

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10AustintownMom(10 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm not too bright? Did you know that drivers don't even have to stop for a crossing guard? They SHOULD, but they don't have to. The only people they have to listen to on the roads are the POLICE.

My point was that the police...with the exception of Officer Toth...won't help out unless the district pays them for a full 8-hour shift. The crossing guards only get $5 per time slot...and they certainly aren't there for 8 hours. Two crossing guards and several children have been hit this year. Why doesn't the APD want to help out with this situation? You must be a cop.

The district has no control over the public roads and the traffic on them. We have open enrollment so that we can bring in the revenue for those students because until the last one, the voters in this district hadn't passed a levy in how many years. Parents can help out by letting their children ride the bus if they qualify instead of adding to the traffic. The construction workers can help by coming and going at times different than dismissal time, but their union refused that request. Drivers can help by taking a different route to work. And the police can help if they'd only be seen. It needs to be a group effort.

If I'm not too bright, you're a total idiot.

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11AustintownMom(10 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

I've been thinking about this argument. I'm not going to apologize for what I said to you because you made it personal with your comment about my intelligence. I allowed myself to get sucked into that mentality, and I regret THAT. Just because you don't agree with my opinions, it doesn't make you superior to me, and it certainly doesn't make me stupid.

In my experience, people in general have changed their perception of helping one another. It's all about "me" and "what can I get out of this?" How about doing it because you can or because you should or because it's the right thing to do...or even just because--gasp--it's the NICE thing to do?

My intention wasn't to bash our police department. I live in this community, and I depend on them as much as my neighbors do. Most of the time I've had good experiences with them. As with any profession, it's my opinion that there are a few bad apples who are doing their job for all the wrong reasons. Some tend to forget that they work for us, not the other way around. The attitude you displayed here brought that up for me.

I can't tell you the number of times I've offered to do something extra at work or that one of my bosses, or even a coworker, have asked something of me that isn't necessarily in my job description. It would never occur to me to say no. I like helping out and knowing that people know they can depend on me. I like that feeling of camaraderie that comes with being part of a team, of knowing that others have my back. I assume that when the district feels the need to call someone for help, the PD is the logical choice. Not only are the police qualified for the job they need help with, they are the ONLY ones who can actually do something concrete about the problem. No one is asking them to volunteer a 40-hour work week. We were just hoping that someone would step up and help us protect our employees and our children. It would only have to be on a temporary basis since once the public realizes that there are real consequences to their actions, I suspect they might just start to take this situation on the roads much more seriously.

As I stated in my last comment, I believe that there are other things that can and should be corrected as well. We have parents within our own district who don't send their children to the elementary building they are supposed to go to because they don't like the teachers or the principal. So they have to be driven to school just like the out of district kids, adding to the traffic in that area. At least the new building will eliminate that problem next year.

I don't see anything wrong with us voicing our opinions or ideas in any public forum, and I won't tolerate being belittled because of mine. That mentality only helps prove my point.

For the record, I volunteer in THREE organizations...two at my son's school and one in the community. And I work my full time job as well. So I practice what I preach.

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12AtownParent(565 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

First, we have open enrollment because our current BOE is unwilling to make necessary cuts to keep the spending in the black. The FOUR YEARS before the school board voted on open enrollment, our district was running in the black but knew they had to make cuts suggested by the state audit. Instead of doing that, they passed open enrollment under the guise of it being only for 200 children that could fit into the district without hiring any new teachers or costing the district any more. We are now at over 700 children. Open enrollment is not paying for operating expenses - it is paying for open enrollment.

Second, the APD has every single right to ask for additional monies if they are sitting their performing duties that are not part of their shift duties. Instead of that officer, or multiple officers being on patrol in our township, doing their jobs, you want them to come and help out the school district, taking them away from their job. And don't even start with Officer Toth. He is at that school all day long. He is an amazing police officer and should be paid whatever he asks. The kids love him and look up to him and he is a fantastic role model to a lot of these kids that don't have that in their lives.

The problem needs to be solved by the Admin and BOE, plain and simple. To blame the APD is ridiculous. And on a side note, more people would be willing to support levies in this community if our BOE and Admin were transparent with how funds are spent or if they even acted like they listened to the taxpayers of this township. Why would anyone continue to throw money to people who are wasteful and secretive about spending.

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13AustintownMom(10 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

It's really NOT that simple. There are a lot of contributing factors to the current situation. I'm not saying that the BOE isn't responsible for some of it. I'm saying that they don't have control over ALL of it.

And I'm not asking to take police officers away from their duties. I'm asking that they donate some of their off time to help out at school. Even if they do want paid instead of volunteering to help, how is it fair to pay them for an 8 hour shift when they would work like two hours? THAT was my original complaint. I never said this situation was all their fault. And if you actually read my post, you'd see that I gave kudos to Officer Toth, so there is no need to correct me. I said that he is the exception to the opinion I have of SOME local officers and their attitudes.

You're entitled to your opinions, same as I am mine. But don't put words in my mouth.

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14AustintownMom(10 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

And for what it's worth, I agree with you on the district's spending. It's out of control! And I don't like having open enrollment either. But while the open enrollment traffic adds to the problem, it is not THE cause of the problems on the road. As far as I know, it wasn't a driver from another district who was involved in any of the accidents this year. Austintown can claim those drivers ourselves.

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15AtownParent(565 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

The first driver who accidentally struck the crossing guard was from the work crew on the new schools and the second one know one knows who it is so assuming it is an Austintown person makes an ....well you know how the phrase goes.

The traffic flow in front of those schools is the sole result of the BOE trying to cut costs by reducing the number of hours a bus driver works and combing all those schools to be dropped off at the same time. It is simple. These issues did not occur last year and there was still a crossing guard for kids going from Frank Ohl to the church to be picked up. Same with AMS, no issues until the changes in traffic routes this year do to the combing of school start times and the construction.

Also, the time frame during the Frank Ohl/Watson drop off/pick up occurs during shift changes at the APD. That is why they can not be there at all times.

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16AustintownMom(10 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

My sister-in-law was the second person hit, and she is almost sure it was a construction worker as well. The so-called "investigation" that was reported here didn't happen. The other crossing guards have been more diligent about looking for that truck than anyone else has been. But that's neither here nor there.
I understand your points, and I agree with them. The whole busing issue is a mess.
When I say that the BOE doesn't have control over the roads, I mean that they can neither stop people from driving like maniacs or do anything about it when it happens. When a crossing guard has traffic stopped on Raccoon Rd. and an impatient driver pulls up onto the grass of the 911 memorial to go around the line of stopped traffic, my sister in law can do nothing...except move out of the way. A police officer could deal with that immediately.
The situation is bad. But we all know that as much as the BOE tells us what we want to hear and promises to improve things, that's not likely to happen. They can't even fix what they can control, much less anything else. So because people know that circumstances are what they are, they need to be diligent in driving through those areas. Both of the guards that were struck were because the driver was either in too much of a hurry or not paying attention. There's no excuse for stupidity, no matter how much traffic there is. I think we can all agree on that.

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17AtownParent(565 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Yes, we can all definitely agree on that!

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