Crossing guard had been denied at Hollywood school where mother died

People cross in front of Le Conte Middle School where a woman was struck and killed Tuesday by a big rig while crossing the street with her daughter.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Unified School District requested a guard more than a year ago to monitor a crosswalk near a Hollywood school where a mother escorting her child was fatally struck by a big rig Tuesday, but city transportation officials said they could not fulfill the request due to “limited resources.”

Marleni Edith Barrera, 42, of Los Angeles was inside the crosswalk with her 9-year-old daughter on their way to Citizens of the World Charter School Hollywood when authorities say a big rig struck Barrera and her daughter.

Barrera was transported to a hospital where she was pronounced dead later that morning, Los Angeles County coroner’s spokesman Ed Winter said. The unidentified fourth-grader suffered minor injuries, but seemed “to be doing OK” shortly after the accident, according to an email sent to parents by the school principal.  

World Charter School shares a campus with Joseph Le Conte Middle School, an LAUSD campus. District officials said the Los Angeles Department of Transportation is ultimately responsible for allocating guards to crosswalks like the one outside the campus. Still, L.A. Unified officials can ask the department to conduct an “evaluation for the necessity of a crossing guard,” said John Sterritt, director of the district’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety.


Sterritt said the district asked the Department of Transportation to perform engineering work and restriping at the crosswalk in January 2013. The engineering work was done within 30 to 60 days, he said, but the district never heard back about a crossing guard.

“We did follow up,” Sterritt said, “but I’ve found no evidence that we heard anything.”

A city transportation spokesman issued a statement saying the crosswalk “qualified for a crossing guard but one was not assigned due to limited resources.” The spokesman did not immediately clarify whether a study had been conducted.

“Safety is a priority for the department, and we are looking at increasing the resources allocated to the crossing guard program and identifying additional safety measures,” the statement said.


In the wake of the tragedy, the district resubmitted its request for a crossing guard Wednesday morning, Sterritt said.

Meanwhile, authorities offered new details on what one police official called “a very tragic accident.”

Police Lt. Theodore Edwards said the driver of the big rig stopped prior to the crosswalk, but the driver did not see the pedestrians, so “started up again.”

The driver proceeded through the crosswalk but, “as soon as he was flagged down by another vehicle, he stopped the truck, got out, and rendered aid,” Edwards said.

Police had not made any arrests as of Thursday, Edwards said. 

A statement from Citizens of the World Charter School said crisis counselors were being provided to all students.


Twitter: @MattStevensLAT