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Trespassers on school buses could face misdemeanor charges

Published 11:51am Thursday, August 15, 2013

School buses will take to the road Monday morning to bring their first loads of students to class.
But before the first diesel engine roars up, citizens and parents should be aware of laws and regulations regarding school buses – including a recently passed law that makes trespassing on a school bus a Class A misdemeanor.
The Charles “Chuck” Poland Jr. Act was passed during the 2013 legislative session and is named after a Midland City bus driver who lost his life in January 2013 after a gunman boarded his bus.
According to the Alabama Department of Education, unauthorized entry onto buses has increased in recent years.
Keith Lashley, transportation and technology director for Alexander City Schools, said all buses have been equipped with a sticker warning about unauthorized entrance.
“Every bus is equipped with a sticker that essentially says you are not allowed on without being invited,” Lashley said.
The new law makes it a crime to damage or deface a public school bus, enter without permission or intentionally delay or impede a school bus. It also makes it a crime to refuse to leave a bus when the driver in charge makes this request.
The system just completed its annual bus driver training, Lashley said, during which drivers were briefed on the new regulations.
Lashley also reminded citizens not to pass a stopped school bus.
“We are able to take a picture of the car as it goes by, and we have begun prosecuting those cases,” Lashley said. “Everything we do is based on keeping our students safe on their way to and from school.”
Traffic in both directions is required to stop on roadways with two lanes and a center turning lane, with four or more lanes with a center turning lane and roads four lanes with no median separation.
Motorists traveling on roads four or more lanes and a median are only required to stop if they are traveling the same direction as the bus.
As for students on the bus, Lashley said the rules are the same as they were last year.
“A child has three opportunities to continue riding the bus,” Lashley said.
Parents will be notified on the first offense. A second offense causes the child to be removed for 10 days, and a third offense prevents the student from riding the bus for the rest of the school year.
A Class 3 offense, such as fighting or bringing drugs or weapons on a bus, results in automatic removal for the remainder of the school year, Lashley said.