The New York State Senate on Monday passed legislation (S1519), sponsored by Sen. Carl L. Marcellino that aims to protect children and make communities safer from sexual predators by prohibiting registered sex offenders from working as bus drivers.
“Registered sex offenders should not be operating a school bus or a passenger bus, plain and simple. Bus operators come in contact with vulnerable individuals every day,” said Marcellino. “To give a registered sex offender a license and access to potential victims is dangerous and makes zero sense. This legislation fixes the problem.”
Under the proposal, the Department of Motor Vehicles would be prohibited from issuing or renewing a commercial driver’s license to operate a passenger or school bus to any individual who is required to register as a sex offender. The bill has been sent to the Assembly for approval.
New York lawmakers are also trying to keep certain sex offenders far away from their schoolchildren with another bill, A1396, which was was sent to the Codes Committee in the Assembly earlier this year. It would specifically prohibit Level 3 sex offenders from entering a school bus or going within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop.
Just last week a New York school bus driver accused of sexually abusing a child pleaded guilty to a lesser charge: endangering the welfare of a child. John Hitchcock, 67, who formerly worked for Randolph Central Schools, will be sentenced on July 14, reported WIVB.com.
Chautauqua County District Attorney David Foley said in a statement that the assistant district attorneys worked closely with the victim’s family during the investigation of this “difficult” case.
“We had several meetings with the family on this case, and we all agreed that this plea was in the best interest of the child,” he noted. “I am grateful for the communication and support of the victim’s family and hope that this plea allows them a sense of resolution,”
Foley added that cases involving young victims can be difficult to prove and have a traumatic impact on the children involved, particularly if they have to testify in court.
Read more about the risks involved when school districts fail to conduct thorough background checks on school bus drivers in the May edition of STN.