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171.321 Qualifications of school bus drivers.

Subdivision 1. Endorsement. No person shall drive a school bus when transporting school children to or from school or upon a school related trip or activity without having a valid class A, class B, or class C driver's license with a school bus endorsement except that a person possessing a valid driver's license but not a school bus endorsement may drive a vehicle with a seating capacity of ten or less persons used as a school bus but not outwardly equipped or identified as a school bus.

Subd. 2. Rules. (a) The commissioner of public safety shall prescribe rules governing the physical qualifications of school bus drivers and tests required to obtain a school bus endorsement. The rules must provide that an applicant for a school bus endorsement or renewal is exempt from the physical qualifications and medical examination required to operate a school bus upon providing evidence of being medically examined and certified within the preceding 24 months as physically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle, pursuant to Code of Federal Regulations, title 49, part 391, subpart E, or rules of the commissioner of transportation incorporating those federal regulations.

(b) The commissioner of public safety, in conjunction with the commissioner of economic security, shall adopt rules prescribing a training program for Head Start bus drivers. The program must provide for initial classroom and behind-the-wheel training, and annual in-service training. The program must provide training in defensive driving, human relations, emergency and accident procedures, vehicle maintenance, traffic laws, and use of safety equipment. The program must provide that the training will be conducted by the contract operator for a Head Start agency, the Head Start grantee, a licensed driver training school, or by another person or entity approved by both commissioners.

Subd. 3. Study of applicant. (a) Before issuing or renewing a school bus endorsement, the commissioner shall conduct a criminal and driver's license records check of the applicant. The commissioner may also conduct the check at any time while a person is so licensed. The check shall consist of a criminal records check of the state criminal records repository and a check of the driver's license records system. If the applicant has resided in Minnesota for less than five years, the check shall also include a criminal records check of information from the state law enforcement agencies in the states where the person resided during the five years before moving to Minnesota, and of the national criminal records repository including the criminal justice data communications network. The applicant's failure to cooperate with the commissioner in conducting the records check is reasonable cause to deny an application or cancel a school bus endorsement. The commissioner may not release the results of the records check to any person except the applicant.

(b) The commissioner may issue to an otherwise qualified applicant a temporary school bus endorsement, effective for no more than 180 days, upon presentation of (1) an affidavit by the applicant that the applicant has not been convicted of a disqualifying offense and (2) a criminal history check from each state of residence for the previous five years. The criminal history check may be conducted and prepared by any public or private source acceptable to the commissioner. The commissioner may reissue the temporary endorsement if the National Criminal Records Repository check is timely submitted but not completed within the 180-day period.

Subd. 4. Training. No person shall drive a class A, B, C, or D school bus when transporting school children to or from school or upon a school-related trip or activity without having demonstrated sufficient skills and knowledge to transport students in a safe and legal manner. A bus driver must have training or experience that allows the driver to meet at least the following competencies:

(1) safely operate the type of school bus the driver will be driving;

(2) understand student behavior, including issues relating to students with disabilities;

(3) encourage orderly conduct of students on the bus and handle incidents of misconduct appropriately;

(4) know and understand relevant laws, rules of the road, and local school bus safety policies;

(5) handle emergency situations; and

(6) safely load and unload students.

The commissioner of public safety, in conjunction with the commissioner of children, families, and learning, shall develop a comprehensive model school bus driver training program and model assessments for school bus driver training competencies, which are not subject to chapter 14. A school district may use alternative assessments for bus driver training competencies with the approval of the commissioner of public safety.

Subd. 5. Annual evaluation. A school district's pupil transportation safety director, the chief administrator of a nonpublic school, or a private contractor shall certify annually to the commissioner of public safety that, at minimum, each school bus driver meets the school bus driver training competencies under subdivision 4 and shall report the number of hours of in-service training completed by each driver. A school district, nonpublic school, or private contractor also shall provide in-service training annually to each school bus driver. A district, nonpublic school, or private contractor also shall check the license of each person who transports students for the district with the National Drivers Register or the department of public safety annually. The school board must approve and forward the competency certification and in-service report to the commissioner of public safety.

HIST: 1971 c 644 s 16; 1975 c 265 s 1; 1985 c 291 s 23; 1987 c 379 s 2; 1989 c 140 s 13; 1990 c 529 s 9; 1993 c 57 s 1; 1994 c 483 s 1; 1994 c 603 s 17; 1994 c 647 art 12 s 29-32; 1Sp1995 c 3 art 2 s 42-44; art 16 s 13; 1996 c 275 s 12; 1997 c 187 art 3 s 25; 1Sp1997 c 4 art 12 s 31

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Revisor of Statutes