Schools should hire private bus contractors only after conducting police verification and getting a nod from the parent-teachers’ association (PTA), the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) said on Monday.
“Verification will ensure the school is aware of the past record and the character of the staff they are hiring. It is important to know these things before hiring anybody, who will be dealing with children,” said AN Tripathi, secretary of the commission.
The child rights panel made the recommendations on the basis of the police report and documents submitted by the school education department, while hearing a case where a school bus attendant and driver have been accused of molesting an 11-year-old at an international school in Pune.
The schools in Mumbai have been directed to follow the guidelines, in addition to the existing school bus safety norms framed by the transport authorities. The school bus safety norms do not include police verification.
The panel has also suggested holding daily counselling for students to keep track of the behaviour of bus attendants and drivers towards them. The responses of the students should be recorded and presented to the PTA. “We have come across many cases where children have reported molestation by bus staff during counselling sessions. The guidelines have been formed keeping in mind the safety of children during transportation,” said Tripathi.
School bus operators, however, are sceptical about the implementation. “Police verification may seem like a perfect solution, but it is a time-consuming process that can take up to six months. Schools do not have the time for such long processes,” said Anil Garg, president, School Bus Owners’ Association (SBOA) that runs 300 buses in the city.
“Many schools have stopped offering the service owing to the additional responsibility. Many more schools will follow suit, if the government adds to the rules,” said Garg.
* Schools should make proper arrangements to ferry students
* There should be a woman bus attendant and conductor, if there are girl students onboard
* Private contractors should be hired only after police verification
* Each school bus should have a CCTV and its footage should be monitored by the school principal
* A report card should be maintained on the service provided by the contractor, students’ response and other incidents related to school bus. It should be presented to the PTA for review during their meetings
* Buses should be hired with the consent of the PTA
School bus safety norms and directives issued by the police:
* Every bus should have a CCTV camera, with a 15-day recording facility
* Background checks of all drivers and conductors should be conducted
* Principals, or those in charge, should verify details such as the vehicle’s registration number, driver’s licence, road permit, insurance and vehicle fitness certificate
* The driver’s eyesight should be checked every six months
* Occasional surprise checks should be conducted to see if the driver or conductor has consumed alcohol
* Woman attendants should be appointed on school buses
* There should be a first aid box
* Windows of school buses should be fitted with horizontal grills