Background Checks and Due Diligence for Bus Drivers

How safe are kids on their way to school?

Many school districts and even parents primarily think about what happens on campus and in classrooms when it comes to safety. The simple act of riding the school bus has been a cornerstone of American public education for decades. Many parents can remember their daily trips on the bus to school. The job is simple enough on paper: follow your route, collect the kids, and make it to school in time for the start of the instructional day.

However, it's essential to look beyond the tradition and consider the reality: transportation on the roads always carries some risk, and the time that children are on the bus is also the time they're often under the sole supervision of one or two adults. In many school districts, though, bus drivers do not receive the same scrutiny that many other employees might. Districts should pull every applicant's motor vehicle report before hiring, but how many consider overall suitability?

A quick tour of some headlines reveals what can happen when districts don't think carefully about hiring individuals with the right temperament and an appropriate past. In Ohio, for example, a bus driver was arrested for completing his entire morning route while heavily intoxicated. Not only did he register a blood alcohol content twice the legal limit at a post-route check, but he also continued drinking vodka while driving the children.

In Florida, a senior citizen working as a bus driver assaulted and harmed a special needs child during the route. The other volunteer employee riding the bus was also arrested and charged for failing to report the driver's assault as a mandatory reporter. Though neither had a history of disciplinary action, some parents wonder if the individuals had the patience and skills to deal with a bus full of children.

Both these stories demonstrate the importance of thinking carefully about the qualities a district looks for when selecting drivers. While an MVR report would not have revealed that the Ohio driver had a past DUI conviction—it was too old to be reported—a criminal check might have unearthed those records. Hiring anyone with a history of driving while intoxicated is likely not anything a responsible school district wishes to do.

So, what should schools think about when hiring drivers? Checking their background and driving history is just the first step. Considering how the individual fares with children is essential, too. Selecting individuals who want to make the bus ride a positive experience for all riders can make a significant difference. Consider the heartwarming story of a driver in North Carolina who, each year, spends money out of pocket to decorate his bus for the holiday season.

The ride to school should be a safe and fun experience for all involved. Districts must not relegate drivers to a position of lesser importance when hiring—the same strict level of due diligence you would use for hiring a teacher should apply here, too. Doing so reduces risks, fosters peace of mind, and helps start every school day on the right foot.


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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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