TORONTO — The Ontario government has proposed changes for school bus driver criminal record checks that the Ontario School Bus Association (OSBA) said would be a “major improvement” over the current requirements.
In a recent newsletter, OSBA explained that most school boards now insist on a “vulnerable sector search” for school bus driver applicants, which is a separate criminal check from the check that’s required under the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) to qualify for and hold a Class B or E (school bus) driver’s license.
According to the association, the criminal check required for the B or E driver’s license doesn’t include a check of the pardoned sexual offender database — hence the vulnerable sector search.
OSBA added that the vulnerable sector check adds “even more time and cost” to the process for hiring a new school bus driver, and it said that since late 2009, the association’s members have expressed frustration over the delays in getting background checks cleared for applicants.
Under the changes proposed by the Ministry of Education, the HTA would be amended to eliminate the requirement for a criminal record search as a condition of getting a Class B or E driver’s license. Instead, the Education Act would be amended to require that school bus drivers have a vulnerable sector search only, which is the same requirement for school board employees.
The proposed date of implementation is July 1, 2013.
"We see this as [a] major improvement over the current situation that requires two separate criminal checks to be done,” OSBA said in its newsletter. “While there will be no cost savings by removing the requirement from the HTA as a license condition (that check was done at no cost to the license applicant), it will save a lot of time and hassle by only having to do the one check.”
The association went on to say that another benefit of the proposal is that it expects the search application process to be streamlined for OSBA members by using an online application form.
“We are currently in discussions with a service provider who will manage this electronic application process and ensure fast turnaround times for the majority of applicants where fingerprints are not required,” OSBA said. “And for applicants who require fingerprinting to confirm identity, applicants will be able to submit electronic prints, which can be processed by police in a matter of days.”
The proposal has been posted on the Province of Ontario’s Regulatory Registry website here.
Other news and articles on background checks:
• Iowa mandates school bus driver background checks
• Who’s behind the wheel?: optimizing driver background checks