HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Ineligible drivers have ended up behind the wheel of Pennsylvania school buses, including some with assault and other disqualifying criminal convictions, the state auditor general’s office said Tuesday.
The agency said a new a state audit found that five bus drivers working for a contractor in the Lancaster School District had convictions that should have kept them from doing jobs that involve direct contact with children, including a drug offense, a firearms violation and felony assault.
In all, 21 of 132 bus drivers in the district did not meet employment standards, including 11 that lacked a valid driver’s license, required training or a physical exam, the agency said.
The school district said its bus contractor has since removed the ineligible drivers and the district has changed its oversight process regarding bus driver qualifications.
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Democratic Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said that in a series of audits released over the past five years, his agency also found five other drivers in three districts who were ineligible because of convictions.
“To say that this is insane would be an understatement,” DePasquale said. “This should be the wake-up call — I’m going to call everyone out statewide if they do this.”
His agency has found missing documentation or missing criminal-background checks for drivers during audits of 58 districts going back to 2013.
In all of those cases, he said, the districts were using contractors to provide bus services.
DePasquale said districts have a legal responsibility to ensure drivers are qualified, even if they are not district employees.
“We are responsible for our students’ safety, not only at school but also on our school buses,” said Lancaster School District spokeswoman Kelly Burkholder. “The adjustments we have made will ensure that we fulfill that obligation and that only fully vetted and qualified drivers are behind the wheel.”
DePasquale said prior audits in other districts identified bus drivers with convictions for aggravated assault, arson and a drug felony. They were removed from driving duties.
Pennsylvania law requires districts to keep the following records about all bus drivers — copies of valid driver’s licenses with school bus operation endorsements, annual physicals, criminal background checks, federal criminal history checks, state child abuse history clearances and the state Education Department’s arrest and conviction report forms.
DePasquale said there’s no evidence children have been harmed by the bus drivers with disqualifying convictions who were identified during his agency’s audits.