The Ontario Ministry of Education has proposed adding school bus drivers to a list of school staff that are subject to criminal background checks. The change is planned to go into effect this coming summer.
Effective July 1, 2013, the criminal record check requirement for school bus drivers will be removed from the school bus driver's licence requirements under the Highway Traffic Act regulation and placed in the Ministry of Education regulation. Enforcement will begin Sept. 1, 2013.
Because Regulation 340/94 of Ontario's Highway Traffic Act has governed school bus drivers who hold Class B or E licenses, school bus drivers were exempted from Regulation 521/01 of the Education Act. The Ministry of Education seeks public comment through Jan. 2, 2013, for requiring criminal record checks of school bus drivers, as is already required for school board employees and service providers. The proposal was supported by the Ontario School Bus Association, which represents school bus contractor interests in the province.
"We see this as major improvement over the current situation that requires two separate criminal checks to be done – one to satisfy a condition of getting the B or E drivers licence, and one to meet what has now become a universal requirement of school boards across Ontario - to have a vulnerable sector search," OSBA wrote in a recent newsletter. "While there will be no cost savings by removing the requirement ... as a licence condition (that check was done at no cost to the licence applicant), it will save a lot of time and hassle by only having to do the one check."
OSBA added that another expected benefit is the streamlining of the application process for school bus companies via an online form, which would allow applicants to submit electronic fingerprints for processing by police. The process is expected to take days rather than weeks, the latter being the current model. Also, by eliminating the criminal search as part of the driver licensing requirements, OSBA said bus operators will be able to put a new recruit through their training program and get the driver licenced with a B or E licence without having to wait for the criminal search to clear.
"This should eliminate a lot of the frustration and cost, and prevent good new hires from drifting off to other lines of work," stated OSBA.