The California Senate Transportation and Housing Committee unanimously approved SB 1072 on Tuesday by a 10-0 vote, setting the stage for school buses throughout the state being required to have child detection alarm systems.
State Sen. Tony Mendoza authored SB 1072, known as the Paul Lee School Bus Safety Law, in response to the death of Paul Lee, a 19-year-old autistic student who was left behind on a school bus during a Southern California heatwave last September.
“No parent should fear that their child will not return home safely at the end of the day,” said Mendoza, a former elementary school teacher. “My hope is that SB 1072 will prevent future tragedies by requiring every school bus in the state to be equipped with a child-safety alarm system.”
Aside from requiring the alarm systems, the bill would also require that drivers receive training in child-check safety procedures upon the yearly renewal of their school bus driver safety certificate. It would also impose penalties for bus drivers, school districts or contractors who knowingly transport students in a bus without a child reminder system, or in one where the system is not maintained or out of order
The law would also direct the California Highway Patrol to provide rules for implementation, as well as a list of approved alarm systems and technicians qualified to install these, and grant school districts and bus contractors a three-month period to comply after the CHP issues its rules.
“When a child boards a school bus, there should never be a fear of them being left behind,” said Eun Ha Lee, Paul’s mother, during a press conference on the west steps of the state capitol building. “Senate Bill 1072 is the first step in backing up our words with actions and I want to thank Senator Mendoza for authoring it. Knowing this bill has been written in his name will put a smile on Paul's face in heaven."
After the press conference, Mendoza held a demonstration on two different child detection systems and how these work.
The bill is now headed to the Senate Education Committee for consideration.