Etheridge school bus safely bill approved by house

Washington, D.C. – Today the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation containing a provision by U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-Lillington) to improve school bus security.

The house passed H.R. 1401, The Rail and Public Transportation Act of 2007, Tuesday.

“Just this month, the FBI issued a warning that members of extremist groups have purchased school buses and obtained licenses to operate them, although they were quick to add there is ‘nothing to fear,'” said Etheridge.

“I do not believe we can take those assurances at face value without a comprehensive threat assessment of school bus transportation. We owe our children no less than to ensure that we understand al threats and take steps to address those threats.”

At the request of Etheridge, the bill includes a provision to require that the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security perform a comprehensive threat assessment for school transportation and make recommendations to DHS and Congress on how to respond to those threats. The Etheridge provision complements the rest of the bill, which closes security gaps in rail and mass transit safety efforts. The legislation provides support and guidance for training, grants security planning, research and development and securing hazardous materials.

The Etheridge school bus provision was originally suggested by Derek Graham of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. Graham is also the President of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services. School buses have been targets of terrorists not only in countries such as Israel, Thailand, Yemen, and African countries, but also in Canada and the United States.

The legislation must next be approved by the Senate.