Crossing guard reassigned after handing out candy canes

A school crossing guard in Tavistock, Ontario. She seeks an explanation after she says that she was transferred from her usual position.

Lea Wittig said it happened after visiting her usual crossing spot, while off-duty, before the holidays. She was dressed as Mrs. Claus and handed out candy canes to the elementary students and parents she normally sees every school day.

Wittig didn’t realize there was a problem until he received his schedule for the new year. It was then that he discovered that he had been assigned a different position.

Tavistock traffic warden Lea Wittig with a thank you card from local students. (Stefanie Davis/CTV Kitchener)

Wittig then asked the East Zorra-Tavistock municipality for an explanation.

“I emailed her and said, ‘If they take my position away, then I’m quitting because that’s my position, but I feel like I deserve an explanation as to why they moved me,’” she explained, adding that she is normally stationed at the job site. Busiest intersection right next to the public elementary school.

“[A staff member] “He called me and told me it was because I was going down to my position as Mrs. Santa Claus, handing out candy canes, which distracted the children and put them in danger.”

Tavistock crossing guard Lea Wittig dressed up as Mrs Claus. (Courtesy: Lea Wittig)

Wittig felt the situation was safe because he was away from the street and there was another crossing guard watching the children.

“If I had known it wasn’t allowed, I wouldn’t have done it,” Wittig explained. “I feel like there had to be something more, but I don’t know.”

Wittig had been on medical leave before the holidays, but said she was told her position would be waiting for her as soon as she got better.

Phil Schaefer, mayor of East Zorra-Tavistock Township, said he couldn’t share more details because it was a human resources issue.

“I can’t really discuss what precipitated something or what is currently happening. Our staff met with Lea again. [Thursday] late to try to establish a way forward and have agreed that they will meet probably within a week or two to start new discussions again, to try to reach common ground on what we need and what the expectations are for the municipality and for your employees”.

MORE THAN A CROSSING GUARD

Wittig has been a traffic guard in the community for about five years. She calls her specific location, on the corner of Maria Street and Adam Street, her happy place.

Because it is so close to the school, it is full and she sees most of the students every day.

“Some people call me Grandma Lea. “It’s not just that I’m crossing these kids just to keep them safe, which is number one, but they’re a part of my life,” Wittig explained through tears. “I have lost two children and they fill the happiness of my heart.”

Their work often goes beyond helping children cross the street safely.

“I have children who come to me crying. [saying] who have been intimidated,” Witting added. “On Friday afternoons I play rock and roll and the kids told me my phone isn’t loud enough, so I had to go buy a Bluetooth so they could listen to it. I dance with them through the [street]rock to rock on your weekends with them.”

Members of the school community say they have seen the impact for themselves.

“You see all the kids running up to Lea to give her a big hug because they all love her like she’s their own grandmother,” Paulette Roth said. “She is more than a traffic guard: she is a friend to everyone.”

Tavistock traffic warden Lea Wittig, dressed as Mrs Claus, hugs some of her pupils. (Courtesy: Lea Wittig)

Kelly Berg, whose son is typically introverted, said Wittig makes him feel comfortable.

“He came out of his shell and also hugged Lea in the mornings. If it’s not a high five, it’s a hug or a fist bump and she always has a smiling face. He interacts very well with her and it’s really nice to see him,” Berg explained. “Believe [at her location] She sees most of the kids and I think it’s necessary for her to get her position back. “I don’t think she would ever jeopardize the safety of a child.”

Wittig hopes to regain his regular position.

“I have some health problems, but I can fight them and I can come back,” he said. “I would love to get my happy place back.”

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