Back-to-School 2018-19: Lessons to learn for a safe school year

August 8, 2018 | 4:09 pm

It may not feel like it from the scorching Kern County heat and long days, but summer is drawing to a close and students are preparing to go back to school.

While some local school districts begin school in early August and late event late July, the biggest school districts begin Aug. 15. Bakersfield College begins session on Aug. 18, and CSU Bakersfield’s fall semester starts Aug. 27.

And with the start of school comes the hectic schedules. Remember and share with students that safety and health throughout the entire school year are the most important lessons to learn.

Sadly, 301 school-age children 18 and younger were killed in school transportation-related crashes from 2006 to 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And over the last decade, nearly two-thirds of school-age pedestrians fatally injured in school transportation-related crashes were struck by school buses or other vehicles when getting on or off a school bus. Thousands more are injured from campus-related accidents.

Please review these simple tips, and be sure to share them with your students to make sure they stay safe when traveling to school, on campus, and in getting home.


  • Pedestrian Safety: Walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, and you must walk in the street, walk facing traffic.
  • Before crossing the street, stop and look left, right and left again to see if cars are coming.
  • Never dart out in front of a parked car.
  • Parents, practice walking to school with your young child, crossing streets at crosswalks when available.
  • Never walk while texting or talking on the phone. Focus when walking near traffic.
  • Do not walk while using headphones.
  • Use crosswalks whenever they are available to cross the street.


  • Always wear a helmet that is fitted and secured properly.
  • Children need to know the rules of the road. Ride single file on the right side of the road, come to a complete stop before crossing the street, and walk the bike across.
  • Watch for opening car doors and other hazards.
  • Use hand signals when turning.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing.
  • Stay in the bike lane whenever possible.
  • Use the sidewalk appropriately and keep an eye out for other pedestrians.
  • Never use electronics while riding – they are distracting.


  • Line up 6 feet away from the curb as the bus approaches.
  • If seat belts are available, buckle up.
  • Wait for the bus to stop completely before standing.
  • Do not cross in front of the bus if possible, or walk at least 10 feet ahead until you can see the other drivers.
  • Face forward after finding a seat on the bus.
  • Exit the bus when it stops, look left-right-left, and take five steps away from the bus toward the curb.


Parents and guardians driving their students to school should take note of the following safety tips while driving.

  • The car shouldn’t move until everyone is buckled up.
  • Don’t block crosswalks
  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, and take extra care in school zones
  • Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians
  • Never pass a bus loading or unloading children
  • The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to allow them to safely enter and exit the bus
  • Use appropriate car seats and booster seats for younger passengers.

For some teens, back to school also means the new-found freedom of driving. Teens crash most often because they are inexperienced. They struggle judging gaps in traffic, driving the right speed for conditions and turning safely, among other things.

And research tells us that teens are the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of a fatal crash. Texting is clearly a dangerous distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds on average, and at 55 mph, that is equivalent to driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. In 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, according to the National Safety Council.

Simply put, make sure drivers put does their phones at all times.


Students should watch out for several other dangers on campuses, including:

  • Backpack safety: Backpacks that are too heavy can cause a lot of problems for kids, like back and shoulder pain, and poor posture.
  • Playgrounds: A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that emergency departments still see more than 20,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related traumatic brain injury each year.
  • Sports: Every three minutes, a child in the U.S. is treated for a sports-related concussion. Learn how to identify concussion symptoms and steps to keep kids safer on the playing field.
  • Bullying: Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood, over the Internet, or through mobile devices like cell phones.


If you or someone you know is injured in an accident on the way to school, on campus, or coming home from school, please contact the personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website

Teachers, staff members, or other employees of schools injures at work can contact the workers’ compensation lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website


*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

CCS associate Neil Gehlawat speaks with media about hazing, provides prevention tips

September 10, 2014 | 10:47 am

* Note: Neil Gehlawat is no longer an attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles *

This week, eight members of the Taft Union High School varsity football team in Kern County were arrested for their alleged role in two separate hazing incidents in the locker room on two separate occasions, according to reports.

Police said four students were cited for battery and false imprisonment, three students were cited for battery and one student was cited for sexual battery. Police have not released any more information on the alleged incidences.

According to, hazing is an act intended to cause embarrassment, harassment or ridicule and risks emotional or physical harm to members of a group or team, whether new or not, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.

Bakersfield personal injury attorney Neil Gehlawat, of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, spoke with local media about the case, about hazing, and shared that the school district could be held liable for the hazing depending on the circumstances.

“The charges are serious,” Gehlawat told Eyewitness News (KBAK-KBFX). “The culture of high school football is such that there’s some sort of a ra-ra culture about it, and at times it can get out of hand. It’s the coaches responsibility and supervisors’ responsibility to make sure that this culture doesn’t get out of hand and no one crosses the line.

“If I were a parent, I would want to know what happened, why did that happen, who knew about it, could it have been prevented, and if so, why it wasn’t prevented.”

To view the full news segment with attorney Neil Gehlawat, go here.

Bakersfield and Kern County have seen several hazing-related cases, which also garnered media attention. In 2011, Kern County prosecutors filed misdemeanor hazing charges against three men suspected of brutally beating fraternity pledges for a month. At the time, it was believed to be the first such filing ever in Kern County Superior Court. The personal injury case on behalf of the victim is ongoing.

And in 2009, a bullying/hazing case involving Stockdale High students led to a $260,000 settlement with the Kern High School District and the culprit’s parents. In that case, five students pinned the victim down, encased him ankles-to-shoulders in plastic wrap and bound him tightly with duct tape, including layers over his mouth. They mocked and threatened him for more than an hour. The students and their parents were held financially accountable for bullying allegations.

Hazing is a problem, and there are several things you can do to help prevent hazing, according to

  • First, understand what hazing is and be able to recognize it.
  • Second, take responsibility, when you see it occurring or when it happens to you, by speaking up and reporting it immediately.
  • Third, make others aware of what hazing is and their responsibility for preventing it.

Coincidentally, Sept. 22 to Sept. 26 this year is National Hazing Prevention Week, which is an opportunity for campuses, schools, communities, organizations and individuals to raise awareness about the problem of hazing, educate others about hazing, and promote the prevention of hazing.

If you suspect hazing has taken place, it’s important to take these tips into account:

  • Never downplay the situation. Treating the issue as a serious situation is very crucial, and will determine how the coaches, students and community will react to this situation.
  • Never assume a case is an isolated incident. The probability of it being isolated is slim to none.
  • Take the opportunity to redefine the coaches, faculty, administrators, and student’s cultural thinking.

At the same time, keep in mind that there are ways to prevent hazing, especially in school settings (courtesy of the Minnesota State High School League).

  • Ask coaches and faculty what you can do to prevent this from happening at your school.
  • Increase supervision, especially in locker rooms. Have the locker room remain locked unless a coach is available to supervise students.
  • Instruct coaches and athletes that locker rooms are not a place for students to hang out.
  • Make the subject of hazing a big part of the pre- and post-season meetings so that all boys and girls in all athletic events will have a chance to discuss it.
  • Have regular meetings with administrators, coaches and faculty to talk about the issue and possible prevention tactics.
  •  Develop clinics that will help coach’s foster positive relationships and respect on their teams.

If you or someone you know has been hurt in a bullying or hazing incident, it’s also important to contact an attorney. If you have any questions about a hazing case, call Chain Cohn Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the website