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May 13th, 2014 | Sterling

“Bus”ted: Who’s Screening Your Child’s School Bus Driver?

As a parent, you send your kids off to school each morning and trust that the teachers and school staff will keep them safe. School safety has been a hot topic for years and many policies have been established to help protect America’s children.

With all of the time, energy, and love you put into your kids, it’s only natural to worry about them. So as you wave goodbye and watch them hop onto the school bus, you may think about whether they will eat their lunch, remember to hand in their homework, or pass their spelling test; however, recent stories have hit the news giving parents much more to be concerned about.

Earlier this month, Fox 17 reported that Michigan school bus driver Kevin Frederick was arrested on the job for driving on a suspended license. He was also wanted by police for previous charges including larceny, retail fraud, and other driving infractions. Upon further investigation with the school district, it appears that Frederick was never subject to a background check and was simply required to divulge any criminal history to his employer which he neglected to do.

A similar story surfaced in White River Junction, VT about Carl H. Lupton, a driver for The Butler’s Bus Service who was charged with impaired driving while operating a bus full of children. The company was aware of his 2006 DUI conviction, but claims to have no knowledge of his other three DUI charges of which he was never convicted. Vermont law requires that bus drivers undergo a criminal background check and three year motor vehicle record search, but only driving infractions and criminal convictions within the past two years can prevent a driver from gaining employment. Although parents are thankful that no one was injured as a result of this negligent driver’s actions, they are outraged that an individual with such a poor driving history was responsible for their children.

Unfortunately, impaired driving is just the tip of the iceberg when you consider some of the other news stories over the past year such as the school bus monitor in Rhode Island who was arrested on child pornography charges. In 2013, Ariel Castro made news headlines around the world for kidnapping three teenage girls and holding them captive for a decade. It shocked the public when they learned that he worked as a school bus driver from 1991 to 2012, during which time he was also arrested for domestic violence. It is not clear how Castro slipped through the cracks as according to policy, he should have been re-screened during his employment, which would have uncovered his run-ins with police.

These noticeable gaps in the screening process could be solved by extending screening policies to include school bus drivers and other individuals with access to children. There are also services available that will alert you when a driver or employee is arrested or charged with a driving offense. Schools aren’t the only ones that should be screening their contractors. It’s important to always look at your extended workforce of contractors and suppliers to determine if there is a gap in your background screening program.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.