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Parents fury after lollipop man forced to quit for 'high fives' with children

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 13, 2013

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A lollipop man has quit after being threatened with suspension for high-fiving school children as they cross the road.

Appalled parents have come out in support of Bob Slade, from Beacon Park, Plymouth, who helped children from the city's Manadon Vale Primary School.

The 65-year-old, who worked at the school for four and a half years, quit his job after being told by Plymouth City Council he would be suspended for four weeks following safety concerns.

A spokesperson at the council accepted that school crossing patrols could be friendly but said “their full attention must be on the road and they must watch the traffic closely at all times”.

Mr Slade worked at Devonport Dockyard for 45 years before taking up his position at the school, helping children cross at the junction between Manadon Drive and St Peter’s Road.

Speaking exclusively to The Herald, he said: “I really enjoyed the job.

“I have been doing it for more that four years without a single accident.

“When I got the job they told me to make contact with the kids and be friendly.

“But then they changed their minds and I stopped high-fiving them earlier in the year because they told me to stop.

“They also said I was going out into the road without looking properly.

“They said they would suspend me for four weeks but I said I would rather leave - I was going to retire soon anyway.

“I appreciate the support of the parents but I won’t be going back again, this is the end of it now.”

Parents were told that Mr Slade had resigned for personal reasons.

But The Herald can reveal that Mr Slade resigned after being threatened with suspension.

Barbara Laws, who has two children at the school, said: “It’s one of those stories you think is just unbelievable.

“The parents are now stuck with no patrol on that crossing.

“At the end of September parents were told through the school's weekly newsletter that Bob had resigned for personal reasons.

“However, in a case of health and safety gone mad, it has now come to light that Plymouth City Council had threatened Mr Slade with four weeks suspension for high-fiving the children as they crossed the road, a practice they felt was dangerous.

“This news has stunned parents, as Mr Slade had stopped greeting the children in this way earlier in the year following feedback from the council.

“To my knowledge, not a single parent had expressed any concern over Mr Slade's actions, which amounted to nothing more than the children patting his outstretched hand as they walked past him.

“Bob also acted as a deterrent against dangerous parking in the vicinity of the crossing.

“The council have announced that a new lollipop person will be appointed soon, but we were more than happy with Bob Slade.”

In a show of support, parents have arranged a collection for Mr Slade and are keen to make the story public.

The story follows a number of other examples across the country of school crossing patrols getting into trouble.

Earlier in the year 64-year-old Roger Green, from Bracknell, Berkshire, was ordered by council bosses to stop high-fiving children and Ray Vallance, aged 54, from Sheffield was sacked in 2008 for dressing up as Santa.

A Plymouth City Council spokesperson said: “We take the safety of children very seriously and school crossing patrols exist to make sure children can cross roads as safely as possible.

“To do this they must hold out the lollipop with one arm and hold their other arm outstretched to signal that all traffic must stop, this is well established signalling that should be understood by all drivers.

“While patrols can be friendly, their full attention must be on the road and they must watch the traffic closely at all times.”

“We will be recruiting to fill the school crossing patrol position at Manadon Vale primary school as quickly as possible.”

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