NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Red-faced city officials are moving to revamp the vetting process for school bus drivers after reports surfaced saying more than 100 drivers didn’t get full background checks. Some even had criminal convictions.
More than 600,000 New York City kids board school buses every day, so CBS2’s Marcia Kramer asked Mayor Bill de Blasio if the drivers who transport them should be on the minds of every parent.
“There are about 100 who weren’t given background checks, but there were also six who actually have criminal convictions. I’m wondering if you feel you need to fire the people with criminal convictions, especially for drunk driving and domestic abuse?”
“This has been an absolutely unacceptable situation. We will not allow it to continue,” de Blasio said. “There should have been background checks for absolutely everyone. That is now being instituted.”
In a move that’s a little like closing the barn door after the cows got out, the city is now, as of Thursday, embarking on a new vetting process.
All 9,000 bus drivers will be fingerprinted, forced to fill out a detailed background questionnaire and subjected to a nationwide search for criminal arrests and convictions, CBS2’s Kramer reported.
“No, I do not believe anyone who has been previously convicted of drunk driving should ever drive a child or anyone whose been convicted of any kind of violence,” de Blasio said.
“For some of the drivers that have been mentioned as having problematic background checks, we jumped on that right away. Some of those drivers never, ever drove for us because they were caught,” Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said.
Officials said the issue is now so urgent, the city will pay $1.2 million, or $135 per driver, to send mobile fingerprinting units to all bus depots this fall.
When asked if he wonders why it took the city so long to do it, parent Edward Finkil said, “Yeah, I thought they did it. I thought that was something you do with the job.”
“I think there’s a lot of those things that you take for granted. You assume that your children are in the care of background-checked people, but I think sometimes that’s a false assumption,” added Chelsea parent Corynne Razos.
The city is also moving the unit which investigates bus driver complaints into its Office of Special Investigations, CBS2’s Kramer reported.
This also comes as City Councilman Ben Kallos has introduced a bill to outfit all school buses with GPS systems to help track buses and pupils who don’t show up.