The day Edna Umeh was introduced to the world outside her family and friends, was the day of her senseless death while she protected the children of Lindley Middle School who were crossing a 5-lane highway to reach their classes. Umeh put her life at risk daily on busy Veterans Memorial Highway between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.
As a crossing guard, she served as a buffer between vehicles and school children crossing a road with no traffic light or crosswalk. On November 30, 2017, she lost her life to a driver speeding in a school zone. Grief counseling would be needed for the over 1,000 kids enrolled at Lindley. News spread rapidly through the community about the mangled red vehicle that killed Umeh as she stood in the median.
A child reported on the tragedy as the subject of her public speaking assignment at the A. W. Matthews Boys & Girls Club weeks later. “A man was speeding and hit her while she was in the road,” the 8-year old recalled.
Edna’s Law Hearing
On January 25, 2018, Representative Erica Thomas held the first hearing for the bill, known as Edna’s Law, to prevent a similar incident from endangering the lives of crossing guard or students. According to statistics presented at a District 39 Town Hall Meeting on January 25, 373 fatalities and 11,000 injuries happened in school zones in 2015. “That’s too many. It doesn’t make sense that kids would have to get school–over not just a street–but a 5-lane highway,” said Rep. Thomas.
She also said it is a fight to get members of the legislature in south and north Georgia to understand the demands of a large education district. “They deal with one school and one Sheriff, who is able to handle everything. We have 131 schools; we don’t have enough police to make sure our kids are safe.”
Only 62 officers are assigned to the schools in the 39th district. “I am getting questions, such as ‘What if one of the cops pulls me over at 8 o’clock at night.’ No, the officers are only being asked to arrive 45 minutes early and stay 45 minutes beyond. However, if you’re speeding you need to be pulled over!” Thomas responds.
House Bill 672
Edna’s Law, or House Bill 672, seeks to change existing rules that forbid officers patrolling elementary, middle and high schools to use speed detection devices and to stop violators. University systems and colleges are able to use the detection devices and to penalize drivers. “They are post certified. They went through state training that all the other police officers went through. Why can’t they arrive 45 minutes earlier and leave 45 minutes later?”
Thomas, additionally, is advocating for stop lighta and crosswalks around the area as needed and urges citizens to call, write or visit the Capitol to help her win approval for Edna’s Law. A safety audit of a three-mile stretch of the area, initiated by Cobb County District 4 Commissioner Lisa Cupid and conducted by the Cobb County Department of Transportation, will be used as evidence to convince lawmakers to vote for the measure.
Edna the Woman
Umeh’s son vows to be the face of justice until there is a permanent solution to the problem after the loss of his mother. He insists something has to change for the safety of the kids. Ms. Umeh was 64 at the time of her death and was beloved by the many students, parents, faculty, and staff of Lindley Middle School and by those in the community who knew her through her job. She leaves behind three sons, eight siblings, nine grandchildren, one great-granddaughter, as well as other family members. If the bill passes she will be immortalized as the woman who changed the behavior of school officers and drivers for her willingness to put herself in danger to protect the children.
The next step for Edna’s Law is to make it through the Rules Committee so that it can be heard on the House floor.