According to the American School Bus Council, there are approximately 480,000 school buses operating in the United States daily. Each day, these buses carry some 25 million children to and from school—roughly half of all school-aged children in the United States.
School buses have a substantial role to play in America’s mass transit and educational industries. However, the buses can’t do the work alone: they need to be operated by bus drivers, and those drivers need to be validated by school bus background checks.
Though school bus drivers are responsible for the safety and well-being of millions of school children across the United States, the background checks they face are often lacking in depth or detail. The reason is most school districts in the U.S. are facing bus driver shortages. As a result, the standards these drivers are held to have been loosened in recent years.
To keep students safe, every school bus driver background check should include the following.
- Driving history records: School bus drivers need to be safe and responsible on the road. A driving history check can verify a driver has the necessary license to drive a school bus (a Commercial Driver’s License, or CDL) and does not have a history of violations that might indicate reckless or unsafe driving habits.
- Employment verifications: Has the bus driver worked in a driving capacity before? Verifying previous employers and speaking to references can shed light on a candidate’s accountability.
- Criminal history checks: Does the candidate have a history of criminal activity such as kidnapping, theft, drug use, or any violent or sexual offenses? A thorough criminal check can find the answers. Sex offender registry checks are also recommended given the nature of the role and the requirement of working near children.
- Social Security Number trace: A Social Security Number trace can reveal past names, aliases, and addresses associated with a candidate. This information can be used to flesh out background checks or can raise flags about the validity of a person’s identity.
- Drug screening: Schools should be drug-free workplaces, and that policy should extend to school buses. All school bus drivers should go through a drug screening before hiring.
Implementing a thorough school bus background check that includes the elements listed above will help protect students. School districts should insist on these background checks for all bus drivers even if they rely on third-party agencies to provide school busing services.