|Most School Bus Inspections Not Available Online, Report Finds|
|Written by Janna Smeltzer|
|Wednesday, 18 March 2009 00:00|
Few public records, including school bus inspection reports, are actually accessible to the public on the Web, according to a new 50-state survey.
Only 12 states made school bus inspection reports accessible online, found the study from Sunshine Week, a national initiative led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors that stresses open government and access to information. But even these were not centralized or standardized.
Kansas, one of the states noted for keeping its records online, does not have actual inspection reports archived. Only the blank forms used when state troopers come to inspect vehicles can be downloaded. There were also no centralized repository for these records. To get these completed forms, journalists and citizens would have to go to either their local school or their regional highway patrol office, said Larry Bluthardt, director of pupil transportation at the Kansas State Department of Education.
Debra Gersh Hernandez, Sunshine Week coordinator, said the goal of the exercise was to examine the kind of state and local information that reporters and people in the community would be interested in finding. School bus records were critical to include, she noted.
"We felt that was one that was very important and very (much) of interest to parents and reporters, just to make sure they’re safe," she said.
Oregon has this kind of information in a database but does not make it available online. The database also contains driver names and Social Security numbers, information that is too personal to make publicly accessible, said Steve Huillet, the state’s transportation director. Huillet said he had not heard of any previous requests that the information be made available online and, with the economy as it is, said he doubted anyone would. For now, he can pull requested data by license plate number, district name or other category from the database for anyone who is interested.
School bus inspections weren’t the most frequently unavailable type of data According to the survey, of the 20 types of information sought, death certificates and gas pump over-charge records were the least likely to be found online. School building inspection reports were similarly unavailable.
In Nevada, those interested can find monthly and annual reports of the number of school buses inspected in each of the state’s three highway patrol divisions on the Department of Public Safety Web site. State Transportation Director Diana Hollander said the education office has not collected inspection reports in years, and in the past 15 years no one has ever asked her to see these reports. Still, she said centralizing a publicly-accessible database of standardized inspection reports would allow her to see trends and would ultimately make student transportation safer.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2009 17:09|