While Iowa’s newly passed “Kadyn’s Law” has entered the national spotlight, Gov. Terry Branstad signed another bill, SF 2221, April 4 that is also designed to protect schoolchildren. The new law will mandate criminal background checks for all school bus drivers upon hiring and every five years thereafter.
While most school districts already do this, it will now be a requirement for getting an initial license from the Department of Transportation. School districts are required to pay for the background check at time of employment. Penalties “may include a reprimand or warning of the person or the suspension or revocation of the person’s authorization to operate a school bus,” states the bill.
However, before passage, one lawmaker voiced concern that the measure did not go far enough and should apply to all school personnel who have close contact with students, such as custodians and cafeteria staff. Officials are already required to conduct background checks on teachers.
SF 2221 requires that schools check whether bus drivers are on the sex offender registry or adult and child abuse registries. Supporters of this bill said it would provide a more comprehensive review of an applicant or employee.
The measure to require bus-driver background checks arose, in part, from recent cases of school bus drivers, such as Joshua Burke, being accused of crimes. Burke was arrested on a charge of third-degree sexual abuse after an alleged inappropriate message between him and a girl on the Internet. If the school district had reviewed a free online database of Iowa’s court records, it would have discovered that the 32-year-old had been arrested in 2007 on a charge of driving with a barred license, in addition to other infractions, such as having an open container while driving.