Intoxicated School Bus Driver Prompts Discussion of Background Check Protocols for Contractors

By Michael Klazema on 8/21/2013

With more and more schools entrusting tasks like bus driving, coaching, and cleaning to contractors, there is definitely a need to ensure that contractors are subjected to the same stringent standards as teachers and faculty when it comes to their background checks. After all, both groups have access to children, and officials need to be certain they are doing everything in their power to protect kids from exposure to predators, drug sellers, violent criminals and other individuals who could prove dangerous.

A recent incident in Lihue, Hawaii has prompted discussion of how the local school district vets its contractors. The incident involved a 74-year-old school bus driver, Lawrence Koth, who was arrested for driving under the influence of an intoxicant.

On the morning of August 8, citizens called the police to report that Koth’s bus was swerving around the road. When police stopped the bus to investigate, Koth side-swiped a parked boat and trailer as he attempted to pull over. Koth failed a sobriety test on the scene, but since his final test results have not yet been received, police have not released the details regarding the intoxicant in question or his level of intoxication.

Only four Kapaa Middle School students were on the bus at the time of Koth’s arrest because he had only completed 4 of his 11 scheduled stops. None of the children were injured. However, the fact that students were riding with an intoxicated driver was still a subject of great concern for the community and school officials alike.

Dara Young, a representative of the Hawaii Department of Education, was quick to point out that school bus drivers are not employed directly by the DOE, but by their own respective contracting companies. Koth was employed by Akita Enterprises of Lihue. Even so, Young assured the community that drivers are still required to pass a DOE background check before they can be hired by the contractor.

The DOE seems to be doing a good job coordinating with their contractors to ensure that their background check policies are followed. However, not all companies know how to protect themselves from bad hiring decisions on the part of their contractors. Fortunately, using a service like the VendorSAFE program from can help. This service allows employers to implement a screening program modeled after the one they use for internal hires and deploy it free of charge to their network of vendors and contractors. This service extends the steps an employer can take to reduce the chances of negligent hiring and workplace crime incidents related to employees of their contractors.

The president of Akita Enterprises said that, in addition to the DOE pre-employment fingerprint based background check, all school bus drivers employed by her company must also pass annual criminal background and driving record checks in accordance with state and federal Department of Transportation requirements. Plus, Akita Enterprise drivers are also required to submit to and pass random drug and alcohol testing. Of course, no amount of background checking can guarantee that employees will behave themselves in the future. This seems to have been the case with Koth, who evidently passed all his background checks.

Koth has been suspended until the investigation is complete, and he is expected to appear in court in September.


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