Senator Steve Saland (R,I,C Poughkeepsie) today announced that his bill (S.5669) to protect students from abuse in school has passed the Senate. The bill would enhance reporting requirements when children are abused on school grounds and strengthen background checks for school bus drivers and attendants.
"In 2000, I authored a law to require that any allegation of physical or sexual abuse of a student by a school employee or volunteer be immediately reported to the police. I was extremely concerned that student allegations were being swept under the rug and accused employees were being allowed to quietly resign with no one the wiser," said Senator Saland. "This bill would strengthen that law by requiring that sexual abuse by a child against another child on school grounds also be reported, "Saland continued.
In addition, the bill calls for school bus drivers and attendants to undergo the same stringent background checks as other school employees. Under existing law, prospective school bus drivers and attendants must be fingerprinted and subjected to a criminal history check, but they are not reviewed under the same stringent standards (also enacted by Senator Saland in his 2000 law) as other school employees. Currently, an applicant could obtain a school bus drivers license as little as five years after being released from incarceration for certain sex crimes, and other felonies such as 1st degree robbery, criminally negligent homicide and 2nd degree manslaughter. Under this legislation, the same stringent criminal history background check standards will be used to screen bus drivers and attendants as those applied to other school employees.
"This is a matter of safety for children and peace of mind for parents -- people with dangerous criminal backgrounds simply should not have the opportunity to have unsupervised time on school buses with children," said Senator Saland.
The bill has been sent to the Assembly for consideration.