FOUNTAIN VALLEY : Bike Helmet Rule for Students Likely

Allison Luther rides her bike to school, but she doesn't want to wear a helmet.

"I have never liked wearing them," said the 12-year-old Kazuo Masuda Middle School seventh-grader.

Her classmates agree.

"Helmets are stupid-looking," said Sam Shackelford, 12. "I don't think I'm going to wear one."

It may not be cool, but students in the Fountain Valley School District will likely have to start wearing safety helmets if they ride their bicycles to school.

The Board of Trustees on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a policy that would require students in grades three through eight who cycle to and from school to wear safety helmets. Kindergartners and first- and second-graders are not allowed to ride bikes to school.

A similar helmet policy was adopted by the Irvine Unified School District in August.

"It's a geeky thing to do, and that's what we need to work on," said Marc Ecker, administrative assistant to the superintendent in the Fountain Valley district. "But we feel we need to stand by our policy."

Board members are expected to adopt the policy at its Oct. 8 meeting. When the policy will go into effect has not been decided.

District officials pointed to the fact that bicycle accidents are the leading cause of death and disability among youth.

"I feel it's necessary because head injuries can be avoided if a helmet is worn," Board of Trustees President Larry R. Crandall said. "If we can save one child from being injured, I think the policy is worthwhile."

Kazuo Masuda Middle School Principal Donald Keller said it won't be easy to enforce the policy.

Keller said that of the school's 700-member student body, about 100 students ride their bikes to school--and most of them won't want to wear helmets. "I haven't seen more than two or three students wearing helmets on a regular basis," Keller said.

Some reasons: it's an inconvenience; it messes up their hair; students don't want to deal with lugging them around school.

"It's going to take a while to sell the students on the idea," Keller said. "Once it becomes the norm, it'll be accepted."

But students who refuse to wear a helmet and violate the policy could lose their privilege of riding their bike to school, district officials said.

Elementary school principals expect to have better luck in encouraging younger children to wear helmets.

"Our students wanted to know the date" the policy will go into effect, said Nancy Young, James H. Cox Elementary School principal. "They're excited to wear it. They have no problem wearing it."

Young said that since the start of the school year, she's informed students and parents of the impending policy.

"We wanted to encourage them to have helmets," she said.

District officials said they're working on dealing with the storage of helmets at schools and on ways of assisting parents who can't afford to buy their children helmets.

However, if parents don't want their children to wear helmets, the policy allows them to request a waiver.

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