Why My Family Will Wear Yellow on February 7th, and I Hope Yours Will Join Us
I know what you might be thinking – another themed day at school!? No, it’s much more than showing off your favorite pair of Christmas pajamas or something from your favorite sports team. Wear Yellow Day is only 2 years old, but word has quickly spread around schools in the state because once people hear the story of how it started, they do not forget it. Hopefully after reading this, you’ll become part of the Wear Yellow Day contingent that’s advocating for school safety.
Safe Path to School Task Force
Wear Yellow Day was created by the Safe Path to School Task Force, a grassroots advocacy organization led by the Savoie family in Slidell, whose daughter Emma was tragically killed in her school parking lot in 2022. Emma was 6 when she was hit by a truck after school dismissal. The events of that afternoon are every family’s nightmare, and the strength, grace and resiliency of Emma’s parents is nothing short of extraordinary, a portrait of grace through unimaginable grief. In the year after her death, they channeled their loss from this senseless accident into determination that this should never happen again. As architecture and design professionals, Emma’s parents threw themselves into studying the regulations, codes, and requirements of school campus safety, and they found them severely lacking in both policy and infrastructure in the state of Louisiana. They also found that stories like Emma’s are not as rare as you might think.
There are a few factors at play that contribute to the rising number of pedestrian accidents, especially those involving children. The average height of vehicles has crept up significantly in the past decade or so, which makes it difficult for even the most attentive driver to see children in front of their SUV or truck. And I don’t need to state the obvious distraction that cell phones and more interactive vehicle display panels have created. We all know that – especially in a slowly moving carline – it’s all too easy to get distracted by your phone and try to send one last email or text. Or go a little faster than allowed in the streets and parking lots of school zones. In addition to those dangers, there was no law on the books to require even the most basic safety measures at school carlines. Schools should be required to keep kids under 10 behind a barrier from moving vehicles, train staff and carline volunteers on pedestrian crossing zones with visual aids, and ensure that after school activities don’t interfere with afternoon pick-up. However, the only requirement was that every school have “some policy,” so standardizing the minimum state rules was necessary and overdue. All of that changed in the summer of 2023, when the Safe Path to School Task Force, with Rep. Owen (now State Senator Owen) successfully led a bill through our state legislature to mandate schools to implement basic safety measures.
That law went into effect in August 2023, just in time for the school year to start. But the work of the Task Force is far from over, because as important as it is to implement common sense safety measures, what really makes a difference is keeping safety top of mind for parents, student drivers, and school administrations. That’s where Wear Yellow Day comes in – it’s an active, engaging way to put safety at the forefront and to shine a light on pedestrians who have the right of way.
Why February 7?
This annual safety day always occurs the Wednesday before Mardi Gras (Emma’s heavenly anniversary is February 23, but the Savoies chose to use the ever-changing Mardi Gras calendar to incorporate general safety awareness tips). It’s a tragic day that will always remind those of us who knew and loved Emma Bell of when she was taken from us much too soon, when she had so much more to give the world. But one of the philosophies of the Savoie family is that “extraordinary love leads to extraordinary action.” The love they have for Emma and Emma’s love for the world has pushed them forward to try to make schools, streets and sidewalks safer for other kids. They never want another family to endure this trauma and loss.
Wear Yellow Day
So, on February 15, 2023 the first Safe Path to School “Wear Yellow Day” took place. The city of Slidell took up the cause in solidarity with the Savoies, St. Tammany Parish Public Schools, and several other schools and businesses in New Orleans and surrounding parishes. Another year later and motivated by the success of changing law in LA, the Task Force has garnered support from entire parishes throughout Southeast Louisiana to wear yellow, conduct safety briefings, implement the new state law as policy (including looking at infrastructure and pedestrian/parking striping), and bring safety to the forefront. The fact that it’s right before Mardi Gras is an extra bonus for Louisiana families, as we all need to remember a safety primer with the kids before partying on the parade routes.
Hopefully you’ve heard of Wear Yellow Day from your child’s school, and if not – we invite you to join us on Wednesday, February 7 and bring the suggestion back to your school, church, business or just among your family. Wearing yellow with us symbolizes that you’ll do your part to support safe measures for pedestrians and in particular safe measures at the schools of young children. Wear a yellow shirt, a yellow ribbon, or yellow anything and share your photo with the hashtag #safepath2school, to be counted in the number. We’re also encouraging students to thank their safety officers and carline volunteers for what they do to keep them safe. If you want to go a step farther, you can include a note in your post about the positive changes you’ve seen in your community with regard to child safety around carlines, bus lines, and parking lots.
Of course February 7 is just one day, but the real work takes place year round. If you’re interested in learning more about the initiatives of the Task Force and suggestions for how to make your kids’ school a safer place, visit their website HERE or Facebook page HERE, where pictures from this year’s event will be shared. Thank you for taking the time to understand and imagine for just a moment what you stand to lose, and what our kids have the chance to gain. They deserve to be seen, and they deserve to be safe!
About the Author
Meg LaBumbard is a friend of the Savoie family. She’s a mother of three who lives in Lakeview who works in Marketing, Communications and PR. In former jobs, she’s collaborated closely with New Orleans Mom to reach parents in the New Orleans area and appreciates their ability to create and curate relevant content to parents in this crazy, wonderful, and confounding city. She has learned that even with all the best intentions in the world, safety usually loses to convenience. Her antidote to anxiety about kids’ safety is having safety discussions with her kids and supporting efforts led by determined women.