Alabama Cracks Down on School Bus Trespassing

By Thomas McMahon

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Trespassing on a school bus in Alabama could result in jail time under a new state law.

The Charles “Chuck” Poland Jr. Act, which was recently passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley, was named in honor of the Midland City school bus driver who was fatally shot while protecting his passengers from an armed intruder on Jan. 29.

Interestingly, legislation on school bus trespassing was introduced before the Midland City incident. Alabama Sen. Cam Ward and Rep. Alan Baker introduced the bills that became the Charles “Chuck” Poland Jr. Act.

State pupil transportation director Joe Lightsey said that unauthorized entry on Alabama school buses has increased dramatically in recent years, but existing trespass laws did not specifically address the unauthorized entry of a school bus.

“All too often, unauthorized persons have boarded school buses and threatened or assaulted students and school bus drivers,” Lightsey said. “The Charles ‘Chuck’ Poland Jr. Act specifically addresses the issue of trespassing on an Alabama school bus and will help school systems protect students and school bus drivers by vigorously prosecuting persons who do so.”

The new law makes it a Class A misdemeanor to trespass on a school bus. Such offenses include a punishment of up to a year in jail.

The crime of trespass on a school bus in the first degree includes any of the following:

• Intentionally demolishing, destroying, defacing, injuring, burning or damaging any public school bus.

• Entering a public school bus without lawful purpose while the door is open to load or unload students, while at a railroad grade crossing or after being forbidden from doing so by the bus driver or an authorized school official.

• As an occupant of a public school bus, refusing to leave the bus after the bus driver or an authorized school official demands doing so.

• Intentionally stopping, impeding, delaying or detaining any school bus from being operated for public school purposes with the intent to commit a crime.

Thomas McMahon is executive editor of School Bus Fleet magazine.

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