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The arrest of a contracted driver in Las Vegas for alleged unlawful conduct with a student in his passenger vehicle has sparked renewed discussions about how to keep students safe in alternative transportation options, which are used when the yellow school bus is not available or feasible.
HopSkipDrive, headquartered in Los Angeles, began operating a $250,000 contract in January for the Clark County Department of Child and Family Services to transport students who are in foster care to and from school. That contract was temporarily suspended last week, pending an investigation.
“As soon as we learned about these terrible allegations, we contacted the police to have the driver arrested,” said Clark County in a statement on Feb. 26.”
In a separate statement released on Feb. 26, HopSkipDrive said it upholds and enforces stringent safety standards. For example, the company’s CareDrivers are required to pass a 15-point background check, including fingerprint-based background checks against FBI and state records as well as county-level checks. It also requires drivers to possess at least five years of previous childcare experience.
The issue of drivers molesting students or otherwise engaging in inappropriate conversations or relationships with children is a concern felt across the student transportation industry.
Still, one occurrence is too many.
In part to combat this issue, school districts and contractors are installing interior video surveillance to protect both the school bus drivers and the students on board.
Most taxi cabs, which many districts still use to transport students when a school bus is not available, also feature video cameras that record the ride to protect both the driver and the passenger. As do some Ubers that are used.
Miriam Ravkin, senior vice president of marketing for HopSkipDrive, said the company offers Safe Ride Support, which monitors trips in real-time and alerts officials to safety-related anomalies, in which they can intervene. In addition, the school district and/or parent of a rider can track the ride as it is happening.
Other transportation network companies, or TNCs, said they are also considering video surveillance, and some have already added the technology at the request of clients. However, the companies must obtain the signatures of parents that allow their children to be recorded.