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:
“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:
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.