Child Check-Mate: new safety measures taken by Calif. schools

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. — The National City School District has installed a new child safety alert system, Child Check-Mate, in its school buses to ensure no students are left behind on buses at the end of the route.

This upgrade was made in response to new regulations requiring California school buses, approximately 25,000 in total, to be equipped by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year with the new child safety alarm systems.

These regulations are otherwise known as the “Paul Lee Bus Safety Law” which was passed and enacted in 2016. It is named after 19-year-old Hoon Jun “Paul” Lee, a non-verbal student with autism who died on a bus in Whittier, Calif., the prior year, after he was left on a school bus on a hot day. Lee died because the bus driver failed to check the bus before leaving, according to the National School District.

“The system is designed to prompt the bus driver to inspect the interior of the vehicle before exiting,” said Antonio Perez, Director of Transportation. “Upon shutting off the engine, the interior lights are automatically illuminated. Bus drivers are required to inspect the interior of the vehicle as they walk to the rear of the bus for children that may be sitting, sleeping or hiding underneath the seats.”

If the bus driver does not turn off the the alarm and attempts leave, an alarm will sound for up to 30 minutes or until the alarm is deactivated and the bus is checked again for children still on board, according to the National School District.

School districts have found difficulty with installing the alarms by the deadline. This is due in part to California Highway Patrol approving the technical requirements of the regulations in January while there was a shortage of needed equipment for the alarms on the market.

“Rather than wait and hope for an extension, the district decided to act in late February, not long after the California Highway Patrol issued the final regulation,” said Mr. Perez.

The National School District took matters into their own hands and worked with local Thomas Bus dealer, BusWest, to get Child Check Mate system installed in 10 of their buses by April 28.