PROVIDENCE, R.I. — At a public hearing scheduled for Thursday, the House Municipal Government Committee is to hear testimony from a local family, the Pendergasts, in favor of preserving the state's mandate for safety monitors on all school buses for kindergartners up to fifth-graders.
In 1985, Vanessa Anne Pendergast was killed by her school bus. She was crossing in front of the bus, and the bus driver reportedly was turned around trying to settle a disruption among students when the bus accelerated, striking and killing Vanessa.
House Bill 5186 would eliminate the school bus monitor mandate, leaving cities and towns to decide whether to continue employing them, the Middletown Patch reports.
Since the mandate was passed in 1986, the Pendergasts argue, no children have been killed by buses when a safety monitor was present. Prior to the mandate, at least one school bus fatality occurred each year between 1979 and 1986.
Vanessa's father, Bill Pendergast, told the news source that legislation supporting the removal of the safety monitor mandate often comes up during economic downturns. His wife, Sophia, is a founding member of Families Insisting on Safe Student Transportation, and has been an advocate for school bus safety for 25 years.
The family said it worries that without a monitor, bus drivers will not be able to effectively manage the behavior of bus passengers while maintaining concentration on driving.