Federal Way High School students have joined together to advocate for safety improvements near their school. From left to right: Gabriel Knudsen, Meeghan Meagher, Kamya Ndungu, Sierra Vaifale, Serena Vaifale, Mariame Bongono and Todd Clark. (Photo by Keelin Everly-Lang / )

Federal Way High School students have joined together to advocate for safety improvements near their school. From left to right: Gabriel Knudsen, Meeghan Meagher, Kamya Ndungu, Sierra Vaifale, Serena Vaifale, Mariame Bongono and Todd Clark. (Photo by Keelin Everly-Lang / )

Federal Way students want safer school crossing on Pacific Highway

Protest highlights safety issue near Federal Way High School.

Early in the morning of Dec. 18, more than 50 Federal Way High School students crossed South 308th Street repeatedly with signs and safety vests advocating for changes to protect them.

After a student was hit by a car in the crosswalk near Federal Way High School at 6:55 a.m. Nov. 29, her friends and peers have organized around the need for increased safety.

The Federal Way Mirror newspaper heard some of their concerns and the story behind their efforts in a meeting with seven Federal Way High School students.

“It struck a personal chord with us because it’s one of our closest friends,” Meeghan Meagher said as the group expressed their agreement. “What really, like, made us want to change things is that this has been fifth or sixth time and the second time in the last six months that this has happened in that same intersection, so obviously, there’s something that can be changed about the safety of that.”

Driving by the intersection where her friend was hit, Meagher said “my heart rate would pick up” and that she feels anxious every time she goes by, adding “I just start picturing it.”

School bus routes go through the busy intersection of 308th Street and Pacific Highway South in front of Federal Way High School on Dec. 18. Students are advocating for changes to these routes to protect pedestrians heading to school. (Photo by Keelin Everly-Lang / )

School bus routes go through the busy intersection of 308th Street and Pacific Highway South in front of Federal Way High School on Dec. 18. Students are advocating for changes to these routes to protect pedestrians heading to school. (Photo by Keelin Everly-Lang / )

Another student added that they now check the street over and over before making a turn, saying “you keep looking, like six times.”

Students were adamant that infrastructure changes need to be the center of the conversation.

“The first thing they ask us is, oh, was she jaywalking or was it her turn to cross?” said Mariame Bongono, who is one of the main organizers. Meagher added that the fact that a professional bus driver was one of the drivers who hit a student shows that there are issues with the structure of the intersection itself: “All these accidents that we’re talking about have been in the crosswalk. ... And, again, like, by bus drivers who are good drivers.”

Bongono added that safety videos for students are “not going to change the fact that she got hit just trying to get to school, not doing nothing wrong ... it’s not the pedestrians ... I don’t know how much it’s going to take to prove that.”

The group is advocating for changes that include deterrents to dangerous drivers like red light cameras and speed limit signs that tell drivers how fast they are going. They also want more signage near the school to let drivers know it is a school zone. They are calling for the addition of a protected turn signal, changes to school bus routes, reflective crosswalk lines and changes to the crosswalk signal cadence.

Student protesters crossed in the intersection between 308th Street and Pacific Highway where a student was recently hurt. (Photo by Keelin Everly-Lang / )

Student protesters crossed in the intersection between 308th Street and Pacific Highway where a student was recently hurt. (Photo by Keelin Everly-Lang / )

At the rally on Dec. 18, Federal Way Public Schools Superintendent Dani Pfeiffer emphasized the need to listen to students’ voices. She shared that “what’s already been done is providing funding for a crossing guard,” and that some wearable lights have been purchased for students, but they are looking at “purchasing those across the system or for any student in addition to here at Federal Way High School.”

Pfeiffer also said they are looking into increasing lighting, changing the crosswalk cadence and “something more intense around flashing lights or crosswalks.” The most important thing is to make sure they are “really partnering with students and wanting their voice. That has to be part of that process.”

Pfeiffer also mentioned creating an educational awareness video in partnership with the city, “not only for pedestrians, but also for drivers.”

In an emailed statement, Mayor Jim Ferrell said they are also looking into attempting to reduce the speed limit in that section of Pacific Highway. This has to be done in partnership with the state because of the road’s status as a state highway.

Ferrell attended the rally on Monday as well.

Student protesters cross Pacific Highway South to advocate for increased safety measures in the intersection and other streets surrounding their school. (Photo by Keelin Everly-Lang /)

Student protesters cross Pacific Highway South to advocate for increased safety measures in the intersection and other streets surrounding their school. (Photo by Keelin Everly-Lang /)

“We are working with the Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) on better lighting and signage to alert drivers of this pedestrian crossing. We’re working with the school district to ensure crossing guards are at the South 308th Street and Pacific Highway intersections,” the mayor said in the email to The Mirror.

“An education component needs to occur as this is the only school in our community that fronts Pacific Highway,” Ferrell said. “We must ensure that students cross the road safely by avoiding the distraction of their cellphones and other technology. They should carefully observe the road conditions before crossing. I want to remind drivers and pedestrians to stay alert and be watchful around Federal Way High School.”

At the meeting with students, they said several moments at the rally highlighted the danger of the intersection. In between takes as they were getting interviewed for TV news, one student said they watched a driver run the red light.

While they expressed frustration with the lack of safety, student organizers said “we’re not anti-city, we’re pro-change.”

Students donned safety vests as they protested in the intersection in front of Federal Way High School that has been the site of multiple pedestrian incidents. (Photo by Keelin Everly-Lang / )

Students donned safety vests as they protested in the intersection in front of Federal Way High School that has been the site of multiple pedestrian incidents. (Photo by Keelin Everly-Lang / )




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Students hold signs sharing their fear of being the next victim of a vehicle / pedestrian collision as they walk to school Dec. 18. (Photo by Keelin Everly-Lang / )

Students hold signs sharing their fear of being the next victim of a vehicle / pedestrian collision as they walk to school Dec. 18. (Photo by Keelin Everly-Lang / )

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