She obliterates the daily doldrums with deft footwork and a mile-wide smile. It’s a smile that’s reciprocated every morning by dozens of students and parents in Toronto’s west end, where the dancing crossing guard has been ushering children safely through the intersection of Gordon and Dufferin streets for the last two years.
But 64-year-old Kathleen Byers has been told to tone it down and stop grooving.
“Yesterday I got a call from my coordinator,” Byers explained. “And she said ‘I’ve had complaints. I don’t want you to bring your music. I don’t want you to dance.’ ”
The city’s crossing guard program is run by Toronto police traffic services, who say her dancing is a dangerous distraction in light of an alarming spike in recent pedestrian fatalities.
“We understand she’s dancing,” said Const. Clint Stibbe. “I applaud her for dancing. Unfortunately we have to look at the risks that pedestrians are facing when she is doing this. We are seeing that the stop sign is not facing traffic at all times.”
Students say if the dancing stops, their days will be a bit duller.
“We are really upset and a lot of kids at our school immediately started (planning) protests and petitions because we really want her to be able to dance,” one student told CityNews.
A parent added: “She can multi-task and does a great job at making everybody feel good.”
The fight to keep Byers dancing has spread online, with the hashtag #letkathleendance gaining steam on Twitter.
— Crystal Steeves (@CrystalSteeves) December 6, 2013
In the meantime, Byers says she’ll continue to dance and listen to music, but only on the sidewalk and not while crossing.
It’s a begrudging concession after a flawless decade on the job at various locations.
“I’ve had a safe record for 10 years,” she stresses. “That’s insulting to me. It’s saying they don’t trust that I know what I’m doing.”
“I’m dedicated to my job and I’d like to be able to do it the way I want.”
Do you think she should be allowed to dance on the job? Let us know in the comments section below