Lawmaker: Bill would protect school bus drivers, students

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - A new bill proposal would shield school bus drivers from prosecution if they stepped in to try to help riders in need on their bus.

School bus drivers have to report problems on the bus, but according to state law, they can't break up fights or help with medical emergencies. The bill's co-sponsor said this proposal will help protect both drivers and students.

Idaho's school buses take more than 100,000 students to and from school each year.

"There's a lot of crazy things that happens on buses as we all know," Boise resident Dan Street said.

Bullying, fights and medical emergencies are some of the scenarios that could come up on a school bus. The drivers are supposed to call for help and do little else. However, a change to state law would give them more power.

"If they thought that stepping in and taking care of a child would hurt them financially or cause them to lose their job, I wouldn't step in and do anything," law student Abby Thiry said.

"Before, the law was very specific," bill co-sponsor Janie Ward-Engelking said. "It said they could only report it. That's it. Now they'll be able, if they feel like they can, do something to help the situation, they'll be able to intervene, and the goal is to keep the students safe."

Idaho's Good Samaritan Law is a gray area when it comes to school buses. Drivers might not get involved in problems on the bus if they're worried about what could happen to them.

"The liability from the bus driver's standpoint, I'm sure they're worried if they get too rough with the kid, they could get in trouble or they could get hurt, either way," Street said.

The changes would help shield school bus drivers from lawsuits if they acted reasonably, or did not step in, to help someone on the bus who is in imminent danger.

"Well, if the bus driver can help in any way, and many things can happen on a school bus, right? Then they should feel free to do it and not be always looking over their shoulder that someone's going to sue them for doing something which they did with all good intent," Eagle resident Don Macdonagh said.

Senators have already approved the bill. It now moves to the House of Representatives for approval. After a committee hearing Monday morning, lawmakers could send it to the governor's desk by the end of the week.

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