By Rep. Curt Sonney (R-Erie)
With most kids heading back to school later this month, school buses will be back on the roads during morning and afternoon commutes, so drivers need to allow extra time and be aware of how to share the road safely with buses and other school transportation vehicles.
Pennsylvania law requires motorists stop at least 10 feet away from school buses when their red lights are flashing and their stop arm is extended. Motorists following or traveling alongside a school bus must also stop until the red lights have stopped flashing and the stop arm is withdrawn. Do not proceed until all children have reached a place of safety.
Penalties for failure to obey school bus safety laws can result in a $250 fine, five points on a driving record and a 60-day license suspension.
Parents are reminded to ensure that their children are at the bus stop early to avoid rushing. Students should stay where the bus driver can see them while boarding or exiting the bus.
For more information and tips on school bus safety, go to www.PennDOT.gov and type in “School Bus Safety” in the search bar.
To better ensure your children are safe at school, the General Assembly recently passed several measures into law.
As part of the 2018-19 state budget, a $60 million block grant program will allow schools to apply for grants to be used for a variety of safety and security enhancements. Those enhancements could include hiring school police officers, school resource officers, counselors and/or mental health counselors; alternative education and diversion programs; violence prevention initiatives; school safety and emergency preparedness plans; or physical upgrades to school buildings and equipment to improve safety.
Act 44 of 2018 also contains several new important security measures.
To help prevent violent incidents, an individual will soon be able to submit an anonymous report via a phone, computer or smartphone app through the new Safe2Say program.
The new tip line will allow students, teachers and community residents to anonymously report any unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent or criminal activities in schools. The tip line will be staffed by trained professionals who can appropriately respond to the situation and provide the reporter peace of mind that their concern will be addressed.
It is modeled after the Safe2Tell program in Colorado, which has received more than 30,000 reports since its inception in 2004, including reports of a planned school attack, suicidal threats and child abuse.
Furthermore, as a way to give school officials additional guidance in creating safer schools, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency will offer a uniform approach to evaluating current security measures in every school building in Pennsylvania.
School employees will also receive mandatory training on school safety and security, and annual school security drills will be required.
A final component of the new law will allow school boards to go into private, executive session for school safety discussions. This will allow school officials to freely debate and develop security plans that address the needs of their schools without disclosing their plans to potential attackers.
Representative Curt Sonney
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Tricia Lehman