Would you let your child ride on a bus driven or monitored by a convicted criminal? That is the general question being posed this month by a Rhode Island State Representative, who according to the Associated Press, is calling for nationwide focused government mandated background checks for school bus drivers and monitors.
The lawmaker, a Republican politician named Anthony Giarrusso, took his hard stance in favor of bus-related background checks after a bus monitor from his home city of East Greenwich was arrested on charges of child pornography. The monitor was fired after his arrest, but it seems his employers had no knowledge of his past criminal activity up until that point.
For Giarrusso, the case hits particularly close to home: the Rhode Island politician’s son frequently rode the school bus to which the arrested bus monitor was assigned. While no stories have surfaced to suggest that the monitor ever made a sexual advance on any of the children on his bus, Giarrusso clearly considers the case as a “too close for comfort” kind of situation, and responded by introducing legislation that would require nationwide background checks for all bus drivers and monitors.
Whether or not the arrested bus monitor actually had any criminal convictions on his record has not been revealed, though the East Greenwich school bus company did admit that its old screening methods only required a state background check (which the monitor did pass). In the wake of the arrest, the bus company has vowed to reevaluate its background check policies and to begin requiring nationwide checks as well—whether or not Giarrusso’s legislation passes and makes doing so a necessity of law.
Even if Giarusso’s law does not pass, however, the Rhode Island case proves that casting a wider search net to uncover criminal records for bus drivers and bus monitors—or any other school district employees who have close contact with children and teenagers in their day to day work lives—could not possibly hurt. Giarrusso may be a lawmaker with the power to change things, but on a more fundamental level, he is just one of many East Greenwich parents who are alarmed, frightened, and relieved over a potential sex offender’s arrest.