Pennsylvania auditors reviewed 1,323 school bus driver records and found 724 deficiencies of various types. File photo by John Horton

Pennsylvania auditors reviewed 1,323 school bus driver records and found 724 deficiencies of various types. File photo by John Horton

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A state audit discovered 10 school bus drivers in Pennsylvania who should have been banned from transporting students because of criminal convictions, the Department of the Auditor General announced on Tuesday.

In addition to the 10 criminal convictions, auditors found that since 2013, 58 school districts in 28 counties were missing driver documentation or had drivers with one or more missing certifications or criminal background checks.

In a press release, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale warned school district officials statewide to be extra vigilant with school bus driver background checks.

“Protecting the safety of students must be a top priority for every single school in the state,” DePasquale said. “It is outrageous that my team found bus drivers with criminal records that — by law — should have precluded them from driving students.”

The auditor general noted that many school districts that use school bus contractors are under the false impression that the contractor is responsible for ensuring that drivers are properly vetted and have the proper driving credentials.

“Let me be very clear: It is the responsibility of the schools to make sure all drivers have the appropriate qualifications and background clearances to interact with students,” DePasquale said. “School officials are also charged with maintaining the driver documentation in school files.”

In the case of the School District of Lancaster, which uses a contractor to transport students, auditors found that 21 of 132 school bus drivers (16%) driving for the district as of June 15, 2017, failed to meet at least one employment requirement. Five of those 21 bus drivers were ineligible for employment when hired based on criminal convictions.

“These individuals had convictions for simple assault, delivery of controlled substances, and possession of firearms without a license, and yet they were driving students,” DePasquale said. “That is absolutely ludicrous.”

After state auditors brought the issue to the attention of School District of Lancaster officials, the district notified the contractor and requested corrective action.

The School District of Lancaster said in a statement that it directed the bus company to immediately remove the drivers with criminal convictions. The district also updated all drivers’ files to include any arrests and convictions.

“We have put standards in place that apply the same high level of scrutiny to driver applicants as are applied to all [School District of Lancaster] employees,” the district said. “The adjustments we have made will ensure that … only fully vetted and qualified drivers are behind the wheel.”

Elsewhere in the state, auditors found that since 2013, another three school districts used school bus drivers who were barred from driving students because of criminal histories: one driver for Chester Upland School District, two for Penn Hills School District, and two for the School District of Philadelphia. The districts subsequently removed those drivers from transporting students.

Across Pennsylvania, state auditors reviewed 1,323 school bus driver records and found 724 deficiencies of various types. School districts and other local education agencies are required to have the following documentation on all school bus drivers:

• Valid driver’s license with S-endorsement for operation of a school bus.
• Annual physical examination.
• Criminal background check.
• Federal criminal history record.
• Pennsylvania child abuse history clearance.
• Arrest/conviction report and certification form PDE 6004.

A list posted on the Department of the Auditor General’s website shows which audits found deficiencies in school bus driver records, as well as whether corrective action has been verified in a subsequent audit. (The lack of an asterisk or pound sign next to the district's name indicates that a subsequent audit has not yet been conducted.)

“I am pleased to report that in most — but not in all cases — where we conducted a subsequent audit, the school districts with bus driver deficiencies have moved to correct problems we identified,” DePasquale said. “That said, I will follow up in future audits to ensure that nothing has fallen through the cracks.”

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