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Greenport students promote safety with help from Southold police

When Greenport’s pre-K students hop aboard the school bus this week, they may be escorted by an older student wearing a silver badge and neon-colored sash that reads “Safety Patrol.”

These student escorts are members of Greenport’s School Safety Patrol, a group of 23 fourth- through sixth-graders charged with directing their peers in traffic-heavy areas. Greenport is the first school district on the North Fork to establish a Safety Patrol.

“Members learn far more than just good traffic safety habits,” Greenport Elementary School principal Joseph Tsaveras said. “Membership helps develop attention to duty, alertness, dependability, leadership qualities and a sense of social obligation.” 

The Safety Patrol will be on duty during heavy traffic periods — 8:30 to 8:45 a.m. and 2:40 to 2:50 p.m. — in and around the Greenport school building, paying close attention to make sure pre-K students get on and off buses safely. 

Last Tuesday, Southold Town Police Officer Gregory Simmons inducted the students into the AAA School Safety Patrol. Student patrollers followed Mr. Simmons in repeating the Patrol Member Pledge.

“I promise to do my best to report for duty on time,” they recited in unison, “perform my duties faithfully, strive to prevent crashes and always set a good example, obey my teachers and officers of the patrol and report dangerous student practices.” 

Mr. Simmons and fellow Southold Police Officer Richard Buonaiuto often work in North Fork districts through the police department’s Community Response Unit, which works to bring the department close to the community. Mr. Simmons, who helped train Greenport’s student patrollers, said their role involves much more than coordinating students around traffic — it’s a huge responsibility, mirroring that of the officers themselves. 

“Whether it’s in the classroom, on the playground, in the hallway, in school — we all share the same responsibility,” he said at the induction ceremony. “You are not simply a patroller; you are now my partner.” 

The AAA Safety Patrol Program was started in 1920. According to its website, patrollers are required to make sure other students behave appropriately and to teach fellow students about traffic and bike safety.

The idea of bringing the Safety Patrol Program to Greenport, Mr. Tsaveras said, arose in June, when he and teacher Roseanne Gianmugnai were discussing student safety. 

“It started from brainstorming ways to help the pre-K students,” he said. “We wanted to get another student with them on the bus, so they had a familiar face when the year started. Then, we thought, ‘Well, it’d be good for all kids to have a familiar face getting on and off the bus.’ ” Each bus will have two regular patrol members who will ride in the morning and afternoon. 

Ms. Gianmugnai, who also serves as the school’s Safety Patrol adviser, said students who wanted to join the Safety Patrol had to complete applications that included answering a series of essay questions and obtaining parental permission and teacher approval. 

“We wanted the students to feel like this is a job,” she said. 

The student patrollers have been training for three weeks, working in conjunction with a AAA School Safety Patrol Club and the Southold Town Police Department. Ms. Gianmugnai said they’ve completed a series of training exercises during club meetings, most of which were provided by AAA. 

“We showed them where they needed to stand and what they needed to do,” she said. “The students, at this point, will start to run their own meetings.”

The meetings, Ms. Gianmugnai said, will be run by a club captain, lieutenant and two sergeants she will select. This month, she said, she’s on the lookout for independent, dutiful patrollers to nominate for these positions. They will also monitor the other patrollers. 

“We’re keeping an eye out for the shooting stars of the group,” Ms. Gianmugnai said. 

Mr. Simmons said that by working alongside students, he’s formed relationships with them. They often greet him with high-fives in the hallway, he said. 

“This is really helping to foster a good relationship between the police department and the youth in this community,” he said.

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Photo caption: During dismissal, Greenport UFSD student patrollers block other students from exiting the building, waiting for buses to be completely stopped. (Kate Nalepinski photo)