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.

STROLL TO SCHOOL

  • 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.

BIKE RIDERS

  • 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.

THE WHEELS ON THE BUS

  • 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.

DRIVING

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.

PREVENTING INJURIES AT SCHOOL

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.

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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 chainlaw.com.

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 bakersfieldwclawyers.com.

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*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.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles investigator discusses importance of active shooter trainings

February 28, 2018 | 8:49 am


It’s a somber thought, but one that unfortunately is important to think about in our current times: What would you do if you were confronted with a situation involving an active shooter?

In the aftermath of the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people, KERO-23 News interviewed several local officials — including Chain | Cohn | Stiles investigator Ray Pruitt — regarding active shooter training and safety plans at Bakersfield and Kern County schools.

Pruitt, who has nearly 25 years of experience in law enforcement and investigations, stresses the importance of trainings, at schools or otherwise, to better prepare on how to react in the instance of a shooting.

To watch the news segment, click the video above or click here to visit the Chain | Cohn | Stiles YouTube page.

The odds that you will be a victim of a mass shooting are low. But experts say mass shootings have become so frequent and deadly in the United States that people should think in advance about how they will respond if the unthinkable happens.

For this reason, Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to share some potentially life-saving tips — with the help of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — on what you should do if you are ever witness to an active shooter scenario.

1) Evacuate: If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises. Be sure to:

  • Have an escape route and plan in mind.
  • Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
  • Leave your belongings behind.
  • Help others escape, if possible.
  • Prevent people from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
  • Keep your hands visible.
  • Follow the instructions of any police officers.
  • Do not attempt to move wounded people.
  • Call 911 when you are safe.

2) Hide Out: If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely
to find you.

  • Your hiding place should be out of the active shooter’s view, provide protection if shots are fired in your direction, and not trap you or restrict your options for movement.
  • To prevent an active shooter from entering your hiding place, lock the door and blockade the door with heavy furniture.
  • If the active shooter is nearby, lock the door, silence your cell phones, turn off any source of noise, Hide behind large items, and remain quiet.
  • If evacuation and hiding out are not possible, remain calm and dial 911, if possible, to alert police to the active shooter’s location. If you cannot speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen.

3) Take Action: As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter by:

  • Acting as aggressively as possible against him/her.
  • Throwing items and improvising weapons.
  • Yelling.
  • Committing to your actions.

As Pruitt mentioned in the KERO-23 interview, it’s important to prepare for an active shooter situation beforehand, create a plan, and conduct training exercises. Steps to do this are also covered by the Department of Homeland Security active shooter booklet, which you can view by clicking here.

But, in short, ways to prepare for and prevent an active shooter situation include the following:

  • Ensure that your facility has at least two evacuation routes.
  • Post evacuation routes in conspicuous locations throughout your facility.
  • Include local law enforcement and first responders during training exercises.
  • Encourage law enforcement, emergency responders, SWAT teams, K-9 teams, and bomb squads to train for an active shooter scenario at your location.
  • Foster a respectful workplace.
  • Be aware of indications of workplace violence, and take remedial actions accordingly.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Back-to-school tips: For students and parents, getting to and from campus safely should be top priority

August 9, 2017 | 9:24 am


With the close of each summer comes the return of school, including back-to-school shopping, hectic schedules, sports, and seemingly never-ending homework.

In fact, Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently helped our local students get in the school spirit as a sponsor of Childspree, which takes hundreds of underprivileged children back-to-school shopping at Kohl’s. The annual program organized by the Bakersfield Active 20-30 Club provides students with a backpack full of school supplies and $125 for clothes. Volunteers, including Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys and staff, helped the students pick out new digs.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles takes this time of the year to remind parents and students to keep safety at the top of mind.

“Whether its students who are walking, cycling or taking the bus to school, parents dropping off their children, or other pedestrians and drivers around school campuses, safety should always be the top priority,” said David K. Cohn, managing partner for Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We want everyone to arrive to class, and back home, safely.”

Here are a few helpful safety tips for parents and students alike:

 

STROLL TO SCHOOL

  • Map a safe way for your children to walk to school or to the bus stop. Always use sidewalks or walking paths.
  • Check for moving cars at driveways and intersections.
  • Obey all traffic signs and crossing guards.
  • Cross streets safely. Stop at the curb or edge of the street; look left, right, left and behind you for traffic; wait until no traffic is coming and begin crossing; keep looking for traffic until you have finished crossing; walk and don’t run across the street; and don’t use your phone when crossing the street.
  • Work with other parents in the neighborhood to ensure that children in the neighborhood are supervised closely to and from school. Also, identify “safe houses,” homes of neighbors who your child is familiar with if your child is scared or needs help on the way to and from school.
  • Point out places they should avoid, such as vacant lots, alleyways and construction areas.
  • Encourage your children to use the “buddy system.”
  • Teach children to always be aware of their surroundings. Be aware of slow moving vehicles or parked vehicles that appear to be occupied.
  • Parents should also make sure the child knows his or her phone number, address, how to get in touch with a parent at work, how to get in touch with another trusted adult, and how to dial 9-1-1.

 

CYCLING TO CLASS

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Ride in the direction of traffic.
  • Watch for opening car doors.
  • Wear bright clothing to help drivers see you.
  • Install reflectors on the rear, front, pedals and spokes.
  • Install lights on the front and back of your bike.

 

WHEELS ON THE BUS

If children ride a bus to school, they should plan to get to their bus stop early and stand back from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive. Other safety tips include:

  • Wait to board the bus until it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant has signaled to get on.
  • Tell children they should only board their bus, and never an alternate one.
  • Always stay in clear view of the bus driver and never walk behind the bus.
  • Cross the street at the corner, obey traffic signals and stay in the crosswalk.
  • Never dart out into the street, or cross between parked cars.

For more school bus safety information, check out this previous Blogging for Justice blog post on the subject.

 

DRIVING

If children ride in a car to get to school, they should always wear a seat belt. Younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.

If a teenager is driving to school, parents should mandate that he or she use seat belts. Drivers should not use their cell phone to text or make calls, and should avoid eating or drinking while driving.

As for parents and other drivers, it’s important to remember the following:

  • Obey the traffic laws.
  • Follow the ingress and egress patterns at your school.
  • If you want to avoid an unpleasant interaction with law enforcement, leave early, follow the rules of the road and be courteous.
  • If you want to walk your child to his or her classroom, park off-site so you are not creating a traffic jam.
  • Drivers should know what the yellow and red bus signals mean and be aware that children are out walking or biking to school and slow down – especially in residential areas and school zones. Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is getting ready to stop and motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign indicate the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off. Drivers in both directions must stop their vehicles and wait until the lights go off, the stop sign is back in place, and the bus is moving before they can start driving again.
  • Pull into a passenger loading zone for drop-off. If there is no passenger loading zone or any space available, park in a legal parking space farther away.
  • Drop your child off at the curb on the school side of the street rather than crossing into incoming traffic or having your child run across the street.
  • Don’t park in the loading zone or in a school bus zone. Also, never double park; this creates an unsafe situation for children who are often difficult to see between cars.

For more school-related safety tips — including at school safety and bullying prevention advice — visit a previous Chain | Cohn | Stiles blog post here.

— Alyssa Wood for Chain | Cohn | Stiles contributed to this article

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If you or someone you know is injured to and from school at the fault of someone else, contact the accident and injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Attorney Neil Gehlawat, father give Delano high schools funding boost with generous donation

March 2, 2016 | 8:45 am


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

Editor’s Note: Chain | Cohn | Stiles partner Neil Gehlawat and his father, Delano doctor Dilbagh Gehlawat, recently gave a more than generous donation to the Delano Joint Union School District, which was covered by local media. Below is the news release, with information about the donation and how it will help, followed by local media coverage. 

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The Delano Joint Union High School District has received a $100,000 donation from a Bakersfield family and Delano doctor to help provide after-school and weekend tutoring for high school students, mentors for nearby elementary students, scholarships, and a summer bridge program to help incoming high-schoolers succeed.

The donation was made by Dr. Dilbagh Gehlawat and son Neil Gehlawat, an attorney at Bakersfield law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles. Dr. Gehlawat, a pediatrician, has taken care of children in Delano and surrounding areas for the past 35 years.

“We anticipate this donation could potentially reach hundreds of students,” district Superintendent Terri Nuckols said in a statement.

Said the Gehlawats in a statement: “We believe that education is the great equalizer in our society. No child, regardless of their socio-economic background, should be denied access to educational opportunities that will have a positive impact on their future. Our hope is that this donation will help provide high school students in Delano with the resources and opportunities needed to pursue a college education after high school.”

The donation will allow for the following programs in Delano:

  • Provide after-school tutoring by student mentors for high school students. Funding would pay for teacher coaches, tutor training, and funding additional after-school programs.
  • Provide music consultants and high-achieving students to mentor elementary students in music, math and science, including those in nearby rural school districts in Earlimart and Pond. Many elective programs in these areas were discontinued with the budget cuts over the past several years. Funding would be used to provide tutors, pay music consultants, provide training and for transportation.
  • Provide funding for Saturday school tutorials for students with attendance issues. The program will allow students to make up course work that was missed due to absences.  Funding would pay for sessions at all sites, mentoring, tutoring and instructors.
  • Provide a summer bridge program for incoming freshmen to introduce them to the high school experience and beyond. The program sets a 10-year plan where students could potentially earn college credit while in high school.
  • Provide scholarships to mentors and tutors who successfully participate in any of the programs above.

Dilbagh and Neil Gehlawat were honored at a recent DJUHSD school board meeting. The Gehlawats accepted a plaque from the school district administration.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles represents family of boy who collapsed, died in Delano school

May 20, 2015 | 5:32 pm


Thirteen-year-old Jose Manuel Beltran was participating in physical education class on Jan. 26 at his school’s gymnasium in Delano when he collapsed.

Moments later, the eighth-grader was pronounced dead.

How and why exactly are just some of the questions that the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles will figure out for the family of Jose Manuel Beltran. The law firm is representing the family in a potential wrongful death lawsuit against the Delano Union School District.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat spoke with The Bakersfield Californian recently regarding Jose’s death, and the questions that remain four months after his death. In the article, which appeared on the front page of the May 17 edition of The Bakersfield Californian, he stated:

“We need more information at this point … Was Jose given medical assistance? If so, was it timely? If there was a significant delay, did that delay in treatment cause his death?”

He added:

“Our approach is not to file a lawsuit no matter what. Our approach is to get more information.” 

The questions relate to how the emergency call was handled following Jose’s collapse, and the how much time elapsed between that call and arrival of first responders. Records show that the initial 911 call was routed to Canada before being transferred to Kern County Fire Department communications center. Additionally, there appears to be a delay in district medical personnel responding to attend to Jose, who was said to by “facing down, his back towards the sky” when a district nurse arrived to attend to him, The Californian reported.

In order to establish liability in a wrongful death action, a plaintiff must show that the death was caused by the negligence or unlawful conduct of the defendant.

The family has been devastated by the loss of their son, and they’re looking for the facts, Gehlawat told The Californian.

“I think when a parent has lost a child in such a tragic fashion, I think at the very least, they should get the reports …  We should have time stamps showing when the 911 call was made.”

As of now, many of the questions remain unanswered. But Chain | Cohn | Stiles is committed to finding the answers for the family of Jose Manuel Beltran. 

To read the complete article from The Bakersfield Californian, click here. And to see more news reports on this case, click the links below:

* Editor’s Note: Neil Gehlawat is no longer an attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles *

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If you or someone you know has been injured due to the fault of another, contact the personal injury or workers’ compensation* attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles takes part in Kern High School District ‘Principal Partners’ Day’

October 9, 2014 | 9:47 am


Each year, the Kern High School District hosts an half-day open house at all 20 district campuses, aimed at giving more than 200 local business, government and education representatives a sneak peek into campus life.

It’s called “Principal Partners’ Day,” and the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles was happy to take part in the event on Wednesday, Oct. 8.

“Our Principal Partners’ Day program is a perfect opportunity to get a firsthand look at how the District’s many ‘win-win partnerships’ benefit both our students and our community,” said KHSD Superintendent Bryon Schaefer on the district website.

The open house provides an in-depth look at each campus’ programs and services, academic and extracurricular. For example, at Ridgeview High School, participants witnessed the school’s band and color guard in action, the district’s program for the blind and visually impaired (headquartered at Ridgeview High), an art class, a biology class, a history class and much more. Guests get to meet and interact with teachers, students and other school officials. The school’s Associated Student Body representatives provide the tours.

The event is sponsored by the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce and the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is a member of both of these organizations.

The day finishes with a lunch, bringing all participants and school representatives together, at Doubletree Hotel in Bakersfield.

For Chain | Cohn | Stiles, taking part in Principal Partners Day is only natural. The law firm prides itself on being locally founded, and its attorneys and staff have deep local roots. In fact, all of the attorneys have connections to local schools, and regularly assist and volunteer for local high school programs. For example:

  • Managing partner David Cohn graduated from West High School in KHSD, and then attended Bakersfield College before transferring to the University of Southern California, followed by Southwestern Law School.
  • Partner David Stiles graduated from Bakersfield High School in KHSD.
  • Partner Matthew Clark graduated from Garces Memorial High School in Bakersfield. He has volunteered in years past in coaching Mock Trial teams.
  • Partner James Yoro also graduated from Garces Memorial High School in Bakersfield.
  • Associate Chad Boyles graduated from Highland High School in KHSD, in northeast Bakersfield.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to thank the Kern High School District and campus officials for opening its doors to the Bakersfield community.