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METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

When our children were young, our first, primary and most important mission was to make sure they were safe and healthy.

We didn’t sit down at the beach because each of them had a tendency, like me I suppose, to head directly into the water. Sometimes, they weren’t on board with our efforts to protect them.

We would put them in a car seat and, almost instantly, they would arch their backs so far that it was impossible to strap them in.

Or we would try to apply sunscreen and they would wiggle away and giggle, as we dropped a glob of white cream on the floor or sprayed it into the air.

We made them hold our hands even when they didn’t want to touch us. Anyone who read last week’s column can understand why my children, in particular, might not want to hold my intolerably sweaty hand during the heat of the summer.

We also urged them to wear bike helmets, even though they weren’t cool, to wear mittens or gloves in the winter and to get enough sleep so they could function the next day at school or at their numerous basketball/baseball/softball/volleyball/music practices over the weekend or in the evening after a long day of listening to adults talk at them.

One day, after a particularly exciting and challenging basketball game for our son, one of his friends asked if he could bring him to a movie with his family.

“Uh, I guess so,” I shrugged, as I counted the basketballs I shoved into a mesh bag to make sure I had exactly the number the league had given me. “What movie?”

“Hunger Games,” my son’s friend said.

I looked at my wife. I’d heard that the movie was particularly violent and knew that our son, who was under nine, might struggle to make it through a PG-13 movie, particularly one that involved violence among children.

“Are you sure you want to go?” I whispered to our son, hoping that I could encourage him to do something else that evening that might not cost him and, perhaps, us some sleep.

“Daaaaddd,” he said, giving me the can’t-you-be-a-fun-dad-just-this-once look.

My wife and I locked eyes, trying to figure out if either of us should step in and suggest that we’d rather he didn’t go.

We rolled the dice, holding our breath as he jogged away from us across the gym.

We considered taking a nap before he came home, just to prepare ourselves for a restless night.

When he finally returned, he had a broad grin on his face.

“You gotta see the movie, it’s amazing,” he said.

We weren’t sure whether he was just being tough in front of his friend or if he really liked it. Each of the next eight times we asked, he never changed his answer or wavered.

That night, all of us slept well.

Fast forward to today. Our kids are watching and streaming whatever appeals to them. Somehow, one of them asked if we had seen the series “Black Mirror,” suggesting it was a modern version of “The Twilight Zone.”

The first episode, with Salma Hayek, was clever and amusing at the same time. Playing herself, Hayek was particularly funny. Psychologically, it was what we thought and expected.

Then, we watched a few more episodes that became darker and more unnerving. Both of us lost some sleep after watching scenes that exceeded our gore threshold.

We started a text chain with our children, letting them know that we liked the first one and then felt as if the program did a bait-and-switch on us, taking us in a different direction from the psychological into the painful and gory.

They instantly offered their thoughts on different episodes and what they advised was appropriate for mom and dad to watch.

Our kids sent messages like “this one is not scary” and “I think it’s safe to watch.”

At least as far as some TV programs, we’ve come full circle. We are no longer trying to offer them parental guidance, at least where movies are concerned. Maybe they can help establish a new film rating system for sensitive parents.

Suffolk County Police arrested a man for allegedly endangering the welfare of a child after he allowed his 13-year-old daughter to drive with a 3-year-old child in the backseat.

Alejandro Noriega. Photo from SCPD

A 2nd Precinct community support unit officer observed a 1995 Toyota Camry being driven erratically while traveling northbound on Oakwood Road in Huntington Station Jan. 27 at approximately 6:30 p.m. The officer initiated a traffic stop of the vehicle and noticed a young girl was driving. The girl’s father, Alejandro Noriega, was in the front passenger seat. The 3-year-old male child was in a child safety seat in the back of the vehicle. Noriega had been entrusted by a friend to baby-sit the boy.

Noriega, 45, of Huntington Station, was arrested and charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. He was also issued a summons for permitting unlicensed operation. The 13-year-old girl was released to her mother at the scene. The 3-year-old boy was released to his mother at the 2d Precinct.

Noriega was held overnight at the 2nd Precinct and was scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 28 at First District Court in Central Islip.

A 10-year-old student of William T. Rogers Middle School was hit by driver Pasquale Izzo, 81, of Kings Park, while attempting to board the bus Sept. 15. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

A 10-year-old Kings Park boy struck by an SUV on his way to the school bus was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious injuries, according to Suffolk County police.

A William T. Rogers Middle School student was walking across First Avenue, near Carlson Avenue, at about 7:54 a.m. Sept. 15 to board his school bus, police said. The bus had its flashing red lights on and stop sign activated to warn approaching motorists.

Pasquale Izzo, 81, of Kings Park, was driving a 1998 Dodge Durango northbound on First Avenue when he allegedly attempted to pass the school bus, and ignored its flashing lights. Izzo failed to stop his vehicle and struck the student, according to police.

The 10-year-old boy was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious, but not life-threatening injuries, according to police. Izzo was not injured. 

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen notified district parents that it has additional mental health staff available at the middle school to provide  support to those students who witnessed the accident, students who know the injured student and anyone else, as needed.

“Unfortunately, this incident is a terrible reminder that we cannot always assume that motorists will follow traffic safety rules at all times,” Eagen said in a message posted on the district’s website.

Under New York State Law, drivers who pass a stopped school bus can be fined $250 for the first violation and face up to a maximum fine of $1,000 for three violations in less than three years. Individuals convicted of three violations in a three-year span may have their driver’s license revoked.

Kings Park Central School District announced the bus’s route has been changed in order to avoid any potential future tragic accidents at the intersection, and so that the student involved and those who witnessed the accident don’t have to return to the scene of the accident on a daily basis.

The neighboring Commack school district sent out an email to parents reminding them to, “Please drive slowly with no distractions, and be especially vigilant of where our precious children are playing, walking, riding or standing.”

Most school bus-related deaths and injuries occur when children are loading or unloading from a bus, according to New York State Department of Motor Vehicle’s website, not in collisions that involve school buses.

The driver’s vehicle has been impounded for safety checks and the incident is under investigation. Suffolk County’s 4th Squad Detectives are asking anyone who witnessed the accident to call 631-854-8452.

The state department of motor vehicles has recently issued several safety recommendations for drivers sharing the roads with school buses:

* When a stopped school bus flashes its red light(s), traffic that approaches from either direction, even in front of the school and in school parking lots,  must stop before  reaching the bus. Drivers should stop at least 20 feet away from the bus.

* Before a school bus stops to load or discharge passengers, the bus driver will usually flash yellow warning lights. Drivers should decrease speed and be prepared to stop.

* When you stop for a school bus, do not drive again until the red lights stop flashing or until the bus driver or a traffic officer signals that you may proceed. *You must stop for a school bus even if it is on the opposite side of a divided highway.

* After stopping for a school bus, look for children along the side of the road. Drive slowly until have passed them.