DISTRICTS ‑- SCHOOLS ‑- STUDENTS ‑- COMPOSITION OF SCHOOL SAFETY PATROL UNDER RCW 46.61.385
(1) There is no minimum age below which students enrolled in a public school may not be made members of the school patrol and assigned to guard street pedestrian crossings enroute to and from school.
(2) A school district may employ paid adult crossing guards.
(3) A school district may utilize the services of volunteer crossing guards who are adults.
(4) The distance of a street pedestrian crossing from the school grounds involved does not have any legal bearing upon the answers to any of the foregoing questions.
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January 30, 1974
Honorable King Lyseon
State Representative, 31st District
Olympia, Washington 98504 Cite as: AGLO 1974 No. 13
By recent letter you requested our opinion on several questions with respect to school patrols utilized by public school districts to guard street pedestrian crossings. We paraphrase your questions as follows:
(1) Is there any minimum age below which students enrolled in a public school may not be made members of the school patrol and assigned to guard street pedestrian crossingsenroute to and from school?
(2) May a school district employ paid adult crossing guards?
(3) May a school district utilize the services of volunteer crossing guards who are adults?
(4) Does the distance of a street pedestrian crossing from the school grounds involved have any legal bearing upon the answers to any of the foregoing questions?
We answer questions (1) and (4) in the negative, and questions (2) and (3) in the affirmative.
The basic statutory authority governing the establishment and functioning of "school patrols" is contained in RCW 46.61.385, which provides that:
"The superintendent of public instruction, through the superintendent of schools of any city or town or school district, or other officer or board performing like functions with respect to the schools of any other educational administrative district, [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] may cause to be appointed from the student body of any public or private school or institution of learning students who shall be known as members of the 'school patrol' and who shall serve without compensation and at the pleasure of the authority making the appointment.
"The members of such school patrol shall wear a badge or other appropriate insignia marked 'school patrol' when in performance of their duties, and they may display 'stop' or other proper traffic directional signs or signals at school crossings or other points where school children are crossing or about to cross a public highway, but members of the school patrol shall be subordinate to and obey the orders of any peace officer present and having jurisdiction.
"Any school district having a school patrol may purchase uniforms and other appropriate insignia, traffic signs and other appropriate materials, all to be used by members of such school patrol while in performance of their duties, and may pay for the same out of the general fund of the district.
"It shall be unlawful for the operator of any vehicle to fail to stop his vehicle when directed to do so by a school patrol sign or signal displayed by a member of the school patrol engaged in the performance of his duty and wearing or displaying appropriate insignia, and it shall further be unlawful for the operator of a vehicle to disregard any other reasonable directions of a member of the school patrol when acting in performance of his duties as such.
"School districts may expend funds from the general fund of the district to pay premiums for life and accident policies covering the members of the school patrol in their district while engaged in the performance of their school patrol duties."
Since this statute in providing for the appointment of members of a student body to the school patrol is silent with regard to the age, it is, technically, possible for a [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] particular school district to utilize even its youngest pupils as members of the patrol; in other words, there is at present no statutory minimum age requirement for membership in a school patrol ‑ assuming that the child in question is old enough to be a member of the student body of the particular school.1/
The authority of a school district to employ adults to superivse and direct children who must cross streets and intersections going to and returning from school was specifically upheld by this office in AGO 57-58 No. 171 [[to John G. McCutcheon, Prosecuting Attorney, Pierce County on March 10, 1958]], copy enclosed. Such nonstudent crossing supervisors cannot, however, be vested with the authority to enforce traffic laws pursuant to RCW 46.61.385, supra, because, not being members of the student body, they may not be regarded as members of the "school patrol" to which that statute applies. See, AGO 57-58 No. 155 [[to Charles O. Carroll, Prosecuting Attorney, King County on February 10, 1958]], a copy of which is also enclosed.
The same reasoning as was utilized in the foregoing two opinions also supports, in our judgment, the use of unpaid adult "volunteers" to supervise and direct children in their use of street pedestrian crossings en route to and from school. Again, however, unless they are members of the student body of the particular school, these volunteers may not be made members of the "school patrol" for the purposes of RCW 46.61.385,supra.2/
[[Orig. Op. Page 4]]
Your fourth and final question is whether the distance of a particular street pedestrian crossing from the school grounds involved makes a difference in the legal answers to the preceding three questions.
The distance of the crossing from a school would not vary any of our answers already set forth in this opinion for, as we noted in AGO 57-58 No. 171, supra,
"The fact that the legislature has adopted RCW 46.48.160 [now RCW 46.61.385] clearly indicates that the function of the school district in protecting a child need not begin only with the appearance of the pupil on the school premises and need not end when the pupil leaves the school premises at the end of the school day."
Obviously, however, both the distance of a crossing from the school grounds and its over-all nature, in terms of such things as the volume of vehicular traffic to be encountered in using it, may well have a significant practical bearing upon the appropriate policy decision by the school district involved ‑ both from the standpoint of whether to provide crossing guards at all and from that of the ages, etc., of those guards if they are to be utilized.
It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
ROBERT E. PATTERSON
Assistant Attorney General
*** FOOTNOTES ***
1/This situation, of course, could readily be altered by a legislative amendment if such is thought to be necessary. A possible vehicle would be House Bill No. 757, copy enclosed, currently pending before the legislature.
2/Under House Bill No. 757, noted above, specific statutory authority would be granted to school districts to employ and compensate adult volunteers ". . . to supervise the activities of school patrols."