Crossing Guard and Veteran Gets His Post Back After Public Outrage

An 84-year-old Korean War-era vet was reinstated to his position on Columbus Day after he'd been dismissed and had his guns taken away due to a misunderstanding

Sanity (apparently) rules!

An 84-year-old Tisbury School crossing guard in the Martha’s Vineyard area of Massachusetts has been given his position back after a tremendous misunderstanding — some would say outright travesty — had him yanked from the job he loves and his personal guns taken away by police because of red flag laws.

Stephen Nichols, who had been a police officer himself and who served in the Army during the Korean War, had been dismissed from his post as a school crossing guard and his personal firearms taken away recently after a waitress at a local diner thought she heard him discuss a “school shooting.”

Nichols — a grandfather and great-grandfather — had “staunchly denied he threatened the school,” noted The Martha’s Vineyard Times in a new piece.

Nichols instead said he was identifying what seemed to him a worrisome lapse in security at the school — and that he was concerned for the safety of the children.

The man’s dismissal from his post and the seizure of his personal firearms generated a social media firestorm.

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Related: An 84-Year-Old Crossing Guard and Veteran Is Fired

By Monday, a local petition demanding that Nichols be reinstated to his position apparently generated enough attention that the action was taken and Nichols was given his post back..

Nichols said his career with the Tisbury Police spanned six decades.

In a recent conversation with a friend at the diner, he had commented on the way a school resource officer took frequent coffee breaks away from the school — apparently leaving the school vulnerable, in Nichols’ opinion, to a potential tragedy in this age of mass shootings in this country.

But a waitress misunderstood the comments and reported them to police.

That is what reportedly led to Nichols’ dismissal and the confiscation of his personal guns from his home.

Nichols has been licensed for gun ownership since the late 1950s, he told the local publication.

Police Chief Mark Saloio shared a statement with The MV Times on Sunday about the new developments: “The town, collectively, has expressed an outpouring of concern about Mr. Nichols, and his employment as a school crossing guard. We, as well, share those concerns. We wish to make you aware that today, Mr. Nichols was informed that he may return to his crossing guard duties tomorrow morning [meaning Monday],” Saloio wrote in an email to the publication.

“This return to work was always pending upon a final review that was in process. Throughout this period, Mr. Nichols has retained his position as a crossing guard for the town,” he added.

“Please know that Officer [Scott] Ogden performs his duties as the assigned school resource officer, for our elementary school, at a consistently high level. He continues to be dedicated and works hard, in partnership with all of the school staff, to keep our children safe every day,” Saloio also wrote in his statement.

“This department appreciates any and all concerns brought to our attention through the proper channels so that we may help and assist everyone in the best way possible.”

Nichols is represented by Dan Larkosh, of the Edgartown firm Larkosh and Jackson; the attorney said he was pleased Nichols was reinstated, The MV Times noted.

Yet he indicated he still intends to file an appeal of the decision to seize the guns legally owned by Nichols, as well as his license to carry.

The confiscated guns were apparently turned over to Nichols’ own son-in-law, Nichols told The MV Times.

Readers of LifeZette who saw the original story about Nichols’ dismissal from his crossing guard post and the confiscation of his personal firearms were outraged over his treatment.

“This is absolutely shameful! His guns should be returned,” wrote one person on social media. “He should be given his job back and he deserves a huge apology! He was given no due process, just pronounced guilty. This is no longer a free country!”

“I feel so bad for this man to have to defend his honor … Stay strong,” wrote another.

“This is what we feared with a red flag law,” wrote still another person.

Here’s how The Martha’s Vineyard Times explained what happened last week: “Nichols said the waitress made a complaint to Tisbury Police about what she overheard [at the diner] and on the strength of that, [Police Chief Mark] Saloio and another officer relieved Nichols of his crossing guard duties while he was in the midst of performing them. [They] subsequently drove to his home and took away his firearms license and guns.”

“’He came up and told me what I said was a felony but he wasn’t going to charge me,’ Nichols said of Saloio,” the outlet reported.

In a long interview, Nichols told The MV Times about his concern for Tisbury School: “When I was in the United States Army — and it wasn’t just me, it’s anybody who’s in the United States service — if you are on guard duty for eight hours, you didn’t leave that position. And I’m just so accustomed to that … [So] when I see someone who’s supposed to be protecting kids leave the school unguarded — if you’re on guard duty, you stay there.”

Tisbury School Principal John Custer told The MV Times he was familiar with Nichols.

He said crossing guards are “hired, trained and scheduled entirely by the police department.”

The friend who was speaking with Stephen Nichols at the diner said at no time did Nichols make a threat of any kind — and said this whole thing is “absurd.”

See these tweets about the original story — and share your thoughts in the comments section below.

meet the author

Maureen Mackey served as editor-in-chief and managing editor of LifeZette for nearly five years. Before that, she held senior editorial positions at major publications, helping The Fiscal Times win a MIN Award for Best New Site as managing editor and Reader's Digest win an American Society of Magazine Editors Award for General Excellence as book editor. Her work has appeared in Real Clear Politics, CNBC, A Fine Line, AARP Magazine, Yahoo Finance, MSN, Business Insider, and The Week, among other outlets. She is a member of the Newswomen's Club of New York and the American Legion Auxiliary.

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