Friday, August 10, 2001

School van law ensnared in red tape fight

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — The 120 high school golfers in Columbus city schools are practicing their drives, chips and putts for a season in which they may never participate.

        A bureaucratic logjam over using vans as transportation vehicles is threatening their season and the extracurricular activities of thousands of Ohio schoolchildren.

        The problem arose this spring after lawmakers allowed vans to be used the same way as school buses.

        The law has yet to be enacted because of a fight over writing the rules to implement the change.

        The Education Department wants local school boards to decide individually whether vans are used. The department also wants drivers to receive training and the vans to undergo safety inspections.

        Unions representing bus drivers oppose these rules, saying schools should use only regulation yellow school buses — driven by certified bus drivers — to transport children.

        This administrative catch-22 has left districts in limbo, because they can now be held liable for using the vans for extracurricular activities.

        A legislative rule-making body plans to debate the proposed rules Aug. 20.


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