January 8, 1998 in Idaho

Students Light Up The Night In Wake Of Boy’s Death, Post Falls Safety Campaign Takes Hold

Laura Shireman Staff writer
 

Red flashing lights probably won’t show up on the pages of fashion magazines any time soon, but for some Post Falls Middle School students, they’ve become the latest fad.

“The boys have taken to wearing them on the backs of their baseball caps and the girls tend to wear them on their shoelaces,” said Terry Baber, who organized a drive to attach a red safety light to every Post Falls Middle School student. Debbie Mykkanen, the mother of a middle school student, also organized the drive.

Post Falls Ambulance and Rescue, the Post Falls Police Department and the parent-teacher organization at the middle school gave the students safety lights to make students walking to or from school in the dark more visible to drivers.

Students attend class in two shifts at the middle school, with the early session starting school at 7 a.m., before the sun rises, and the late session leaving school at 5:48, after sunset.

Eighth-grader Kayle May said she likes wearing her safety light.

“I think it’s cool because people really don’t watch where they’re driving,” she said.

Johnathan Hauser, a seventh-grader, said he thinks the lights are “pretty cool.

“It’s a good idea for the city to get involved and for the community to wake up,” he said.

The death of a Post Falls Middle School student, 13-year-old Nicholas Scherling, ignited concern over the safety of children at the middle school. An alleged drunken driver, Connie Bickley of Post Falls, hit Scherling as he was walking his bicycle home from school the evening of Nov. 10.

The students received the red safety lights in an assembly Dec. 18, before winter break.

“Before Christmas vacation, that (lights on kids) was all I saw,” said middle school Principal Don Boyk. “I’d say it was virtually 100 percent. They were all over.”

He supervises students who ride the bus after school, but said he couldn’t estimate how many continue to wear the lights now that they’ve returned from vacation because many don’t turn them on until they get off the bus.

Ashley Fields, a seventh-grader, said she wears her light all the time.

“I live, like, way down the street so I always have it on when I get off the bus,” she said.

Chris Burrell, a sixth-grader, said he wears his all the time because he walks home from school.

After school on Tuesday, several students could be seen with their lights flashing as they walked or rode their bikes away from the school.

Jim Lynn, a counselor at the middle school who supervises kids as they leave in the evening, estimated that 30 to 40 percent of the students who weren’t getting rides home were using their lights.

Baber, project coordinator for Post Falls Ambulance, said most kids seem to be wearing the lights, but only 13 have picked up the free reflective tape the ambulance service offers. Parents can sew the tape on clothing or backpacks or adhere it to bicycles.

Local businesses donated many of the lights and the batteries to power them, but Post Falls Ambulance still had to raise $3,895 to cover the remaining costs. Of that, it still must raise the final $1,800.

Baber ultimately would like to extend the project to allow students at other schools to receive the lights.

“That’s my goal: to get it so every kid that wants it regardless of school,” she said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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