Federal Legislation Targets School Bus Driver Backgrounds

Federal Legislation Targets School Bus Driver Backgrounds Shutterstock

The Safety for Our Schoolchildren Act introduced earlier this month by Sen. David Vitter would instruct all states and school districts nationwide to obtain FBI background checks on all new applicants including school bus drivers.

The bill prohibits local education agencies from hiring any new school bus drivers who have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to drunk driving or a serious moving violation. Introduced Jan. 7 by a Louisiana Republican, the proposal also covers any new applicant at a school who has been convicted of a sexual offense against a minor.

LEAs that do not comply with the law could lose federal funds including Title II for a period of at least six months to a year.

sen david vitter laSen. David Vitters (R-LA)The Act would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and would also cover administrators, teachers, substitute teachers, custodians, cafeteria workers or any employee of a subsidiary or contractor for districts.

The National School Transportation Specifications & Procedures Manual, which will be updated in May following the 16th National Congress on School Transportation in Des Moines, Iowa, recommends that school districts check both state and national criminal identification agencies to determine any record of criminal convictions. The national standards also advise school districts to check each new driver applicant's driving record and advises that it is "essential" that background checks be performed using the National Driver Registry and state CDL Information System.

The federal legislation would close any loophole by requiring all states and districts to comply with the background checks. Charlie Hood, executive director of the National Asssociation of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, told STN that conducting the FBI background checks of all new driver applicants is certainly considered a best practice in the industry, but the checks remain a state and fiscal issue. He added that NASDPTS had no immediate data on which states require the background checks and which do not.

Meanwhile, the National School Transportation Association said it is also following Vitter's bill, which was referred at this writing to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Last modified onThursday, 29 January 2015 16:41