A state senator, saying he was inspired to act following the death of a special needs student left unattended on a school bus in Whittier, proposed state legislation Tuesday aimed at avoiding such a tragedy.
Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, said his bill would mandate that school buses in California be equipped with child-safety alarm systems.
“No parent should fear that their child will not return home safely at the end of the day,” Mendoza said. “My hope is that SB 1072 will prevent future tragedies by requiring every school bus in the state to be equipped with a child-safety alarm system.”
Such systems emit an audible alarm when the ignition of the bus is switched off, requiring the driver to walk to the rear of the bus to deactivate it.
The bill also would:
— require drivers to receive training in child-safety check procedures;
— impose penalties on drivers, school districts or contractors for knowingly allowing children to be transported in a bus without an alarm or in one whose alarm is not in proper working condition;
— direct the California Highway Patrol to formulate regulations to put the measures into effect; and
— grant school districts and bus contractors a grace period of three months after the CHP issues regulations to install the safety alarms.
Hun Joon “Paul” Lee, 19, of Whittier, was found unresponsive around 4:15 p.m. Sept. 11 aboard a school bus that was parked at a Pupil Transportation Cooperative bus depot at 9402 Greenleaf Ave., according to police and fire officials.
Bus drivers who found him tried to perform CPR, as did paramedics who arrived at the scene, but it was too late to save him.
His parents have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the bus transportation company, seeking unspecified damages.
Police said Lee rode the bus to a transition program at the Sierra Education Center near Sierra Vista High School about 8:30 a.m. and should have boarded it to return home by 4 p.m. When he didn’t get home on time, his mother called the school district, which called Pupil Transportation, leading to his discovery by the driver.
It was unclear exactly how long Lee had been left alone on the bus, on a day that the Southland was still coping with a nearly week-long heat wave.
— Wire reports