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Passing Stopped School Bus

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


Passing Stopped School Bus

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
March 1, 2008

Recently I was contacted for information about passing a stopped school bus. Here’s the deal. This happened in a small town about Woodstock’s size in central Illinois. What do you think?

A man took his daughter to the elementary school and drove into the school driveway. He stopped behind a school bus. The red lights were flashing and the stop-arm was out.

It was two minutes before starting time, and he told his daughter to run for class, so that she would not be late.

No students were getting off the bus. The man sat behind the school bus for 12 minutes and saw no one on the bus – no students, no driver.

After waiting 12 minutes, he slowly pulled out and moved over to the far side of the driveway. As he pulled alongside the bus slowly, he looked and saw no one on the bus – no driver, no students.

He slowly drove on past. Three days later a town cop stopped him and wrote him a ticket for passing a stopped school bus! It seems the bus driver had complained and identified his vehicle.

He went back and talked to the school crossing guard, who told him the bus was empty and that the driver often went into the school to deliver the mail.


I was curious about whether that small town and its school district had entered into the required vehicular control agreement to allow the police department to enforce state traffic laws on private property (school grounds), I called both the school district office and the town police department. I got the same response from both places. “What’s a vehicular control agreement?”

Here’s the problem. If a driver is convicted of passing a stopped school bus, he loses his driver’s license for 90 days. No if’s, and’s or but’s. According to a local attorney here, even if the judge takes pity on the driver and fines him only a small amount, when the conviction gets to the DMV at the office of the Secretary of State, they suspend his license for 90 days.

The driver of the school bus has apparently said that she was on the bus the entire time, tying the shoelaces of a student. For 12 minutes? Keeping that child out of class for 12 minutes, just to tie her shoelaces?

I’ve suggested to the driver that he get a copy of the vehicular control agreement (if there is one, which I think there is not) and get his lawyer to subpoena the crossing guard and subpoena the school attendance records of the child whose shoelaces were being tied to determine whether the child was late to class that day.

What will probably happen is that the school bus driver will not show up in court at the county seat 20 miles away, and then his lawyer will ask for the case to be dismissed. In the meantime the driver has worried for 90 days about losing his license and has had to spend money for lawyer’s fees.

The town and the school district have not responded to a family member’s Freedom of Information Act Request for copies of the vehicular control agreement. Even though it’s a small town, they must have heard of FOIA and know that they must reply. But they haven’t.

The driver of the school bus may have violated state law by displaying the flashing lights and stop-arm long after the last child left the bus. If she left the lights on and the stop-arm out while she went into the school to deliver the mail, should she be cited for illegal use of school bus warning devices? Or could she even be cited if there is no vehicular control agreement? After all, the bus was on private property. And if she can’t be cited, then neither should the driver have been cited.

If the ticket for passing the school bus was not properly issued because there is no vehicular control agreement, then the City Attorney for that small town should cause the ticket to be dismissed and should step up to the plate right away and not waste more time and money of the driver to defend himself.

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