New school bus policy aims to improve student safety

School buses in Orange Unified School District headed to pick students up for the first day of the new school year equipped with new technology that ensures no students are accidentally left onboard after everyone exits.

Each district school bus has an installed Child Check-Mate System. The system consists of a device located at the rear of the bus that requires the driver to either manually contact or scan the device before exiting the vehicle, ensuring the driver fully inspects the interior of the vehicle before exiting.

kids getting on a school busAcross Orange County and throughout California, other school districts have added similar systems on their bus fleets in order to adhere to a new state law that went into effect for the 2018-19 school year. The primary intent of the law, passed in 2016, is to ensure that students are not placed at risk of being left unattended on a school bus if the driver exits the vehicle.

Senate Bill 1072 was introduced in California State Senate following the 2015 death of Hun Joon “Paul” Lee of Whittier. The 19-year-old non-verbal student with autism who was accidentally left unattended, locked for hours inside his morning school bus.

Orange Unified began the process of retrofitting its entire fleet of 116 school buses several months ago in order to ensure the system would be fully functional when classes began last month.

“Student safety is our top priority, and we are always looking for ways we can improve,” said Transportation Director Pam McDonald in a district news release. “Adopting emerging technologies just makes sense.  We have utilized a previous version of Child Check-Mate since 2001, well before it was required by law, and will continue to seek innovative ways to enhance student safety.”

In addition to the Child Check-Mate System, Orange Unified buses continue to allow parents to track their child’s journey to and from school using Z Pass technology. Students in the bus pass program are issued radio-frequency identification (RFID) cards featuring their photo, bus stop and school. These ID cards are scanned upon entering and exiting the bus, transmitting the information to the Z Pass system. Parents with the app ZPass+ then receive alerts letting them know where and when their child got on or off the bus.