Iowa school bus drivers' records under scrutiny - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa school bus drivers' records under scrutiny


This week, the Iowa Senate unanimously passed a bill on to Governor Terry Branstad that would mandate background checks for school bus drivers.

Current Iowa law doesn't require them for bus drivers, though many districts opt to run criminal background checks anyway.

The Western Dubuque School District, for example, goes above and beyond state requirements for background checks, even though it costs them more money, superintendent Jeff Corkery said.

"Well, we do background checks for every person we hire in the district," Corkery said.

That includes everyone from teachers, for whom background checks are currently required, to custodians and bus drivers, for whom they are not.

Mary Ann Trumm, director of human resources and community relations for the district, conducts the checks.

"Whether you're going to be a substitute with the district or just a regular employee, we do a background check before we make a hiring decision, and the background check includes a criminal history as well as an abuse history," Trumm said.

The district checks potential school bus drivers' driving records as well, she said.

A thorough background check, however, may cost money.

Trumm said she runs more than 100 background checks a year. The basic check the district runs for everybody pre-hire costs $15. For people the district is looking to hire for "certified" positions, which includes teachers, nurses and administrators, Trumm conducts a national criminal background check with fingerprinting, which costs $30.25 per test. Trumm said that brings the grand annual total for background checks to more than $2,000, which comes out of the district's general fund.

"These people have contact with your children, so it's very important, in my opinion, that everyone do background checks," Trumm said.

The proposed legislation the Senate sent to Gov. Branstad would require follow-up checks every five years.

"It makes sense. However," Corkery said, "that's a time commitment, that's a resource commitment that, quite frankly, most school districts, it's difficult to do."

The basic background check the state would mandate under the law would only require looking at public records, which are free to access. Districts such as Western Dubuque, however, pay for more thorough ones.

"If we have to do one every five years, then that would be an additional cost," Trumm said. "Currently, once you hire that person, we just do an initial background check before they receive their contract."

The law would require districts to run a potential bus driver's name through Iowa's registries of sex offender, child abusers and dependent adult abusers.

Some people, including Gov. Branstad, have said the law doesn't go far enough. They said it should include mandatory background checks statewide for any district employee that interacts with students -- not just drivers.

Branstad is expected to sign the bill.

The Des Moines Register published a story this week looking at the public records of approximately 1,000 bus drivers. Of those checked, 11 had serious traffic offenses or criminal convictions.

It said bus drivers in some of Iowa's larger districts face charges or have been convicted in the past decade of offenses such as drunk driving, driving with a suspended license and careless driving.

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