Deadline for bus safety alert systems to be extended

Deadline for bus safety alert systems to be extended

(Calif.) Local educational agencies who have struggled to meet new safety requirements on school buses will be given more time to comply, under a bill pending in the Legislature.

After the death of a student with special needs who had been left unattended on a school bus, lawmakers adopted mandates on districts to install alarm systems that must be manually turned off at the back of the vehicle.

The bill, signed into law in 2016, gave LEAs until the beginning of this school year to comply.

Because a large number of districts have had difficulty outfitting all their buses, lawmakers have proposed giving an additional six months to meet the requirement.

The law was prompted by the death of a 19-year-old student with a disability who died after being left unattended on a school bus for seven hours during a heat wave in Los Angeles.

The author of the original bill, former state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, said at the time that there had been eight instances between 2012 and 2016 where students—some as young as 2-years-old—had been left alone on a school bus. In each of the eight known cases, the student had an identified disability.

To prevent this from happening, his bill required districts to install a new alarm system that generates an audible sound when the ignition is turned off. To disable the alarm, the driver must walk to the rear of the bus where deactivation trigger is located.

In completing the process, it is assumed, the driver would have the opportunity to help any remaining students off the bus before exiting.

The language that would provide the time extension is included in the education budget trailer bill—typically a potpourri of fiscal directions needed to execute the overall intent of the state budget.

The bill is pending in its final stages in both houses and because of its importance to the budget, there is little chance that it will undergo any changes or face significant opposition. Gov. Jerry Brown will almost certainly sign the bill.

The Mendoza bill also requires drivers get special training on child-safety procedures—a 10 hour session sponsored by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The law also requires that school officials must report to the DMV any cases of children being left unattended on a bus, which can then be cause for revocation of a driver’s certification.

Similar mandates have been adopted in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Wisconsin.

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