The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

January 12, 2013

Ala. Bill would stiffen penalty for school bus trespass

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — One of the first bills proposed in reaction to the Connecticut school shootings would strengthen penalties for trespassing on Alabama school buses.

The bill pre-filed by Republican Sen. Cam Ward of Alabaster would establish a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison.

The bill would make it a crime for an unauthorized adult to board a school bus. The bill also would make it a crime to vandalize a bus or to enter a bus for the purpose of doing damage. Ward said the proposed law would make it harder for someone to harm children on a school bus.

Ward said there is currently very little penalty for such incidents.

Ward introduced an identical bill during last year's session of the Legislature, but he said he filed the measure too late for it to receive final passage.

The bill was mentioned Wednesday during a meeting at the Alabama Statehouse of legislators, educators and law enforcement officials to discuss the killings last month of 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school.

A list compiled by Joe Lightsey, who oversees the transportation of students for the Alabama Department of Education, shows at least two-dozen incidents where unauthorized people had boarded school buses.

Several cases involved parents. In one, a parent in Hoover confronted a driver because of a child's seat assignment. In another case, a parent in Mobile County cursed at and threatened a bus driver, Lightsey's report said.

Ward said many of the instances he has heard about involve parents or other adults getting on a bus "to take matters into their own hands."

Ward said his bill is not an overall solution to school violence but will stop some incidents.

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