Senate Passes School Bus Safety Legislation

James L. Seward

July 07, 2008

The New York State Senate passed a bill (S.4579-A), sponsored by Senator Serphin Maltese (Queens), to protect the safety and security of our children by prohibiting individuals with a history of certain serious crimes from operating school buses.

"It is absolutely shocking that convicted felons with a history of crimes including murder, sexual assault and kidnapping can get a job driving a school bus if the conviction occurred more than five years ago," said Senator Maltese. "As a former prosecutor and deputy chief of the homicide bureau, I know firsthand that giving these criminals a window of opportunity like this is far too dangerous. We must close this loophole in order to protect innocent children throughout the state."

"School buses carry the world’s most precious cargo, and we need to ensure that they provide a safe and secure environment for our kids," said Senator Marty Golden, Chairman of the Senate Majority Task Force on Critical Choices. "New Yorkers place more than 2 million children on the school bus each morning, and we want every one of these kids to arrive safely at their destination. The recent Daily News investigation clearly demonstrated that our school transportation system needs to be reformed so that we can keep our children safe and secure when they ride the bus."

According to a New York Daily News investigation last year, from 2004 to 2006 there were 173 arrests of school bus drivers and monitors in New York City on 241 separate charges. These individuals were charged with a range of crimes including DWI, weapons possession, and sexual abuse.

In 2006 55,000 school buses transported 2.3 million children daily in New York State, over 2 million miles.

Currently, individuals with a history of crimes against children can operate a school bus if the crime happened more than 5 years ago. This bill would close this loophole so that individuals convicted of certain serious and violent felonies are prohibited from operating school buses. Under current law, the following crimes do not automatically disqualify an individual from being hired as school bus drivers: murder, kidnapping; rape; and child sexual abuse.

The bill was sent to the Assembly.