Is your child safe on the school bus?

Every parent is grateful for summer vacation, but they are just as grateful when fall rolls around and the family gets back on a routine. Many children walk or bike to school, but each year millions of kids take a bus--one paid for by the school district.

As parents, we assume that the district has scrutinized the drivers--juts as the schools have scrutinized teachers--and have found that they are drug and alcohol free with no criminal background. But have they? CBS news is reporting that school bus drivers might be a lot less wholesome than you think.

What are the background checks for drivers?

In New York recently, a bus driver was arrested on charges of child abuse. The charges were dropped, but the driver later pleaded guilty to assaulting a student. Parents of the student felt his earlier child abuse charge should have been enough for his dismissal, and they believe their daughter would have been spared had the school bus company done their due diligence and fired the driver.

What does this mean for you as a parent?

Despite what you might hope, school bus companies have very little legal loops through which they must jump in order to hire a driver. While it may seem excessive, contacting your school district and asking about school bus policy, the companies they hire and the criteria by which they judge them is always a sound idea. Doing the same with the bus company--demanding to know their hiring/firing policies and what they look for in drivers, also makes good sense.

If something happens to my child, who is liable?

There are many entities that may be culpable if your child suffered some sort of physical or emotional injury. The school district, the school bus company and the driver may all have liability in this case. But will you get financial help for your child's medical bills simply by asking? It's highly unlikely. In cases such as these, the accountable parties often shift responsibility. When that happens, you need to take advantage of the legal options available to you.

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