The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

August 13, 2013

Do you know when to stop for a school bus?

Trespassing on school bus now a Class A misdemeanor

— Under a new Alabama law, anyone who stops or delays a school bus without authorization could end up in jail.

The fatal shooting of a Midland City bus driver in January prompted the change.

As schools prepare to open next week — Aug. 19 in Athens and Limestone County — the state Department of Education’s pupil transportation unit reminds residents of the new law.

The Charles “Chuck” Poland Jr. Act — passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley this year — makes trespassing on a school bus a Class A misdemeanor. Conviction carries a sentence of up to a year in jail.

The law was created to posthumously honor Poland, who protected children from an armed intruder aboard his bus on Jan. 29. Jimmy Lee Dykes had boarded Poland’s bus that day and demanded that Poland hand over two children. Instead, Poland blocked the aisle of the bus, allowing 21 children to escape through the back emergency exit, before Dykes shot him five times. Dykes took one 5-year-old child to an underground bunker on his property. After a six-day standoff, law-enforcement officers rescued the child and killed Dykes.

According to the state Department of Education, more than 377,000 of Alabama’s elementary and secondary students are transported to and from school each day, and unauthorized entry of school buses has increased dramatically in recent years.

Under the new law, a person commits the crime of trespassing on a school bus in the first degree if he or she is found guilty of any of the following:

• Intentionally demolishing, destroying, defacing, injuring, burning or damaging any public school bus.

• Entering a public school bus while the door is open to load or unload students without lawful purpose while at a railroad-grade crossing or after being forbidden from doing so by the bus driver in charge of the bus or an authorized school official.

• Refusing to leave the bus after the bus driver in charge of the bus or authorized school official demands that he or she do so.

• Intentionally stopping, impeding, delaying or detaining any school bus from being operated for public school purposes with the intent to commit a crime.

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