A bill before the New Jersey Legislature would create a school bus safety ombudsman. (Photo by Dana DiFilippo | New Jersey Monitor)
As lawmakers debate whether police officers should be able to consume cannabis while off duty, two Republican say they plan to introduce a bill requiring all public and private school bus drivers be drug tested twice a year.
Under current federal law, school bus drivers are subject to annual random drug tests. School districts or contracted bus companies must test 10% of their drivers for alcohol and 50% for drugs like controlled opiates and marijuana each year.
The new measure would expand that to 100% of school bus drivers at least twice annually, including drivers for private schools. The bill will be sponsored by Bergen County Assembly Republicans Robert Auth and DeAnne DeFuccio.
“We have a collective responsibility to protect children, which will be more challenging as our New Jersey laws and attitudes toward drugs like marijuana evolve,” said DeFuccio in a statement. “School bus drivers are carrying our most precious cargo and our rules regarding drug and alcohol testing should reflect that.”
The lawmakers cited a 2019 crash in Newark where a bus driver allegedly used heroin before driving 11 special-needs children to school. She overdosed and crashed, and was revived with Narcan. In 2020, a Paterson bus company was cited for failing to conduct drug testing and background checks and for using unqualified drivers.
Contractors and boards of education would have to file evidence of the completed testing with their county schools superintendent under the bill.
“Parents deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing their children are in the safest hands when they get on the bus in the morning,” said Auth. “Our bill addresses gaps in drug and alcohol testing protocols and ensures every single school bus driver is being held to the same standard.”
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