“They start with their first badge as a safety patroller” and go on to jobs in law enforcement or public services, Davidson said.
Despite changes, many of the rituals remain the same. Children wear ranked badges and the same Sam Browne-style belts, named for a 19th-century British general who used the diagonal shoulder strap to help balance the weight of a sword.
For students at McKinley, the badge and the belt give them a chance to yell with impunity, as they holler the names and numbers of incoming school buses and mark the end of their morning shifts with a chorus of “OFF DUTY.”
In a class of 73 fifth-graders, 45 applied and were accepted to the safety patrol. They recited the patrol pledge at an assembly last spring. New recruits spent two weeks in training so they would be ready to go when school started Sept. 3.
On the second day of school, patrol members arrived early to get in position. One group of girls waited near the curb in front of the school with a hand-painted sign announcing the Kiss and Drop location. They opened car doors and greeted students, escorting the youngest ones to the front door.
Nearby, a group of boys was stationed at the end of the bus loop, moving bright orange cones away each time a school bus approached. Celso rode the bus that day, where his patrol duties started as a monitor for the middle section of the bus.
By the end of the week, there was one student who kept standing up and reaching out the window to grab at tree branches. “I had to give him a warning,” Celso said. Two second-graders who got into a fight on the bus will have to be separated for future rides. “I have to inform the other patrols that they can’t sit near each other to keep them safe,” Celso said. “Now I see how hard it is,” he said.
Some high points were giving directions in Spanish to a new student from El Salvador who had boarded the wrong bus and finally getting to escort the first-graders from his bus to their classrooms.
His goal for the school year is simple, Celso said: “To learn every student’s name and to gain their respect.”