Incident spurs Broadalbin-Perth bus policy changes

BROADALBIN — As a result of an alleged incident that took place on a Broadalbin-Perth Central School District bus, and to help improve bus safety, the district will be making some modifications to its bus runs for the elementary and secondary students.

The alleged incident that occurred on the bus led to an investigation by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department, but due to the Raise the Age Law, and under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, officials and the school district are prevented from discussing what happened, who was involved and any other details pertaining to the incident.

Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson said there will be no major changes to the bus routes, just some modifications to the bus system that has been in place since Broadalbin and Perth merged schools. He said the district has always run separate buses for elementary and secondary students.

“What happens is that students in elementary who want to take part in early sunrise, [can] choose to ride a secondary bus to get to school at 7:30 a.m.,” Tomlinson said.

He said secondary students who stay late for any after-school programs also ride the bus with elementary students.

Tomlinson said they will no longer allow that to happen and will provide separate bus runs for the students.

Funding for the implementation of the separate bus runs will be included to the district’s 2019-20 proposed budget as a “safety net” Tomlinson said.

The district will be running a pilot program starting on May 6 without additional buses or drivers, and have allocated money in the 2019-20 budget just in case more buses and drivers are needed.

A letter will be sent out to parents informing them of the changes and timeline of the change.

Earlier this month, Tomlinson confirmed that there was an incident that took place on one of the school buses, but legally could not give out any details of the incident.

Although Tomlinson would not discuss any of the details regarding the incident, he did say the incident “was serious enough to investigate it.”

“We are following the direct orders of the sheriff’s department,” Tomlinson said earlier this month over the decision not to release any details.

Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino was also unable to comment about the alleged incident due to the law and referred all questions to Fulton County District Attorney Chad Brown, whose office said Brown would also not comment on the incident. This is due to the Raise the Age law which on Oct. 1, 2018, the first phase of the law went into effect in New York state. The law requires the state no longer automatically charge all 16-year-olds as adults. This October, the law phases in for 17-year-olds.

A letter was emailed to parents informing them of the incident, but without getting into any specifics of what exactly happened on the bus or who was involved.

That letter states, “Recently, we became aware of a serious behavior concern on one of our buses. Because of the nature of this concern, we have been working with local law enforcement to thoroughly investigate the situation. To maintain the integrity of the investigation process, law enforcement officials have directed B-P school officials not to speak to students or parents prior to them being interviewed or any community member who seeks information about this incident.

According to the letter, the “alleged perpetrator” of the incident has been removed from the school district, including all buildings and buses.

“The safety and security of your children in our schools and on our buses remains our top priority,” the letter continues. “The Broadalbin-Perth transportation department serves more than 1,200 children who we transport daily. Members of this department, including drivers, aides, mechanics, and dispatchers, receive regular training in student behavior management, and all of our buses are equipped with video surveillance equipment as an added safety tool. As a parent of a child attending the B-P Middle School who rides our school buses regularly, I would expect nothing less than the best care and attention to all safety concerns on her school bus.”

The letter states the district is reviewing its transportation practices, which has resulted in the separate bus runs.

“This review will leave no stone unturned as we seek to enhance the manner in which we serve the transportation needs of all pre-K through grade 12 students in the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District.”

Earlier this month, Tomlinson said he decided to send the letter due to “irresponsible” rumors going around on Facebook and other social media sites, and to inform parents of the incident.

The district continues to comply with the rules and regulations the Raise the Age law and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act under which the district can’t disclose personally identifiable information contained in a student’s records to anyone outside the district without a parent’s consent.