Audit: School District of Lancaster employed bus drivers with criminal convictions, no driver’s licenses

HARRISBURG — Background checks conducted in a statewide audit of revealed that 21 of 132 bus drivers for the School District of Lancaster as of June 15, 2017 failed to meet at least one employment requirement — including five who should have been ineligible for employment due to criminal convictions.

The audits, conducted by the office of Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, found that 11 drivers did not have evidence of a valid driver’s license, proof of completion of school bus driver skills and safety training, and/or evidence of passing a physical examination, according to a press release issued by DePasquale’s office.

Another five drivers were missing criminal history clearances; therefore, the district could not determine if the drivers were suitable to transport students, the press release said.

The School District of Lancaster uses an outside contractor to transport students, according to the press release.

Of the five criminal convictions discovered by auditors:

  • One driver had a criminal conviction requiring an absolute ban on employment as a bus driver, based on the Public School Code. After auditors brought this issue to the attention of district officials, the district notified the contractor and requested corrective action. The driver was removed from transporting district students.
  • Three drivers had criminal convictions that barred employment until 2022, 2024, and 2025 based on 2011 Public School Code changes that required ‘look‑back’ periods up to 10 years for specific offenses before being eligible for employment as a school bus driver.  These three drivers no longer transport district students.
  • One driver was employed for three years despite not being eligible for employment on the date of hire due to a criminal conviction requiring a look-back period. Because the look-back period was satisfied as of September 2017, the district determined this driver could remain employed.
  • A sixth driver had a criminal conviction from another state that, from the limited information listed on the documentation, appears to require an absolute ban from contact with students. Subsequently, the district obtained additional information and determined that the individual is eligible to drive, so the driver has not been relieved of bus driving duties.

“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 in the press release announcing his office’s findings. “That is absolutely ludicrous.”

The School District of Lancaster’s audit can be viewed here.

In addition to the School District of Lancaster, auditors found statewide that since 2013, another three school districts used bus drivers who were barred from driving students because of criminal histories:

  • Chester Upland School District, Delaware County: One driver with an aggravated assault conviction.
  • Penn Hills School District, Allegheny County: One driver with a felony drug conviction and one driver with an aggravated assault conviction.
  • School District of the City of Philadelphia: One driver with aggravated assault and one driver with an arson conviction.

In those districts where auditors identified drivers that were ineligible because of criminal convictions those districts immediately removed them from transporting students.

“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 in a press release announcing his office’s findings. “That said, I will follow up in future audits to ensure that nothing has fallen through the cracks.”

In all, auditors found that since 2013, 58 school districts in 28 Pennsylvania counties were missing driver documentation or had drivers with one or more missing certifications or criminal 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 only way to prevent the wrong people from transporting students is for school districts to make sure all drivers are properly vetted to ensure they qualify to transport and interact with students,” DePasquale said, noting many schools that use bus contractors are under the false impression that the contractor is responsible for these checks under the Public School Code and for ensuring that operators have the proper driving credentials under the Vehicle Code.

“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. School officials are also charged with maintaining the driver documentation in school files,” DePasquale said.