LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — A high school student died after he was hit by a vehicle while running across the street to his bus stop on Monday morning. Investigators say the person who hit him is a Polk County Sheriff’s Office School Crossing Guard Supervisor.
Detectives say around 6:18 a.m., Shirley Cross, 60, of Lakeland, was heading eastbound on Clubhouse Road towards the intersection of Summerlin Hills Drive and Andros Blvd, when she struck 17-year-old Kalen Kirk, a George Jenkins High School student.
Kirk was running across Clubhouse Road to the bus stop located on Andros Boulevard. He was critically injured and transported to Lakeland Regional Health and Medical Center where he later died.
Cross was checked out by emergency crews on scene and was not injured.
Investigators say there is no crosswalk or school crossing at the intersection where Kirk crossed, and it was dark outside when he was hit. According to witnesses and preliminary information, Cross was unable to avoid striking the pedestrian.
Cross is a PCSO School Crossing Guard supervisor who was hired by the sheriff’s office in 1996.
The roadways in the area have now re-opened.
Buddy Thomas, principal of George Jenkins High, released the following statement on Kirk’s death:
“We are deeply saddened to hear that one of our students, Kalen Kirk, was fatally struck by a vehicle this morning on his way to school. George Jenkins High is like a large family, and our thoughts and prayers go out to Kalen’s family members and loved ones during this difficult time. A crisis team is available for any students or staff members in need of counseling. The accident took place off campus at Clubhouse Road and Andros Boulevard. Kalen was struck while crossing a street. He was taken to the hospital for treatment and later passed away from his injuries.”
The district released the following statement:
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our first priority is the safety and wellbeing of our students.
The Transportation Services department for Polk County Public Schools is reviewing this bus stop location on Clubhouse Road; we conduct such evaluations when incidents occur, or when concerns from the public are brought to our attention.
We have spoken to officials in our Transportation department, and they are unaware of prior complaints involving bus stops on Clubhouse Road.”
However, while officials say they haven’t received formal complaints, parents say they’ve voiced their opinions for years.
Other parents call for change
On Monday parents told News Channel 8 they knew this day would come. They told 8 On Your Side no one responded to their concerns.
The parents said it’s dangerous to stand at the intersection in the morning while children are getting on the bus. There is no crosswalk or school crossing, and the lighting is dim, especially when kids catch the bus at 6:15 a.m.
“You would think that at high school age, it would be perfectly safe to send your child in the morning to the bus stop in front of their neighborhood,” parent Karen Scott said.
Scott doesn’t let her child get on the bus there. “The conditions on this road are not safe. They’re not safe for motorists. They’re not safe for pedestrians. They’re not safe for school children,” she said.
The mom told News Channel 8 she called the country for a traffic study to be done and called the school board about bus stops. She said she’s gotten nowhere.
“I don’t know how many accidents it’s going to take or how many children have to lose their lives to do something about it,” Scott said.
In the meantime, family and friends gathered at Kirk’s family’s house throughout the day remembering a young life taken too soon.
The Kirks’ driveway was full of cars, as people payed their respects.
“Just, just a great kid,” Eddie Crockett said. “He served in his church, good grades, bright future.”
“It’s a hard thing, you know?” Crockett added. “Lost a son and they’re just trying to take it all in right now. It’s a hard day. It’s a hard day … It’s just one day at a time. One day at a time.”
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