The “Paul Lee School Bus Safety Law” that would require all school buses in California to be equipped with a child-safety alarm system was approved by bipartisan vote on Monday, following a State Assembly Transportation Committee hearing in Sacramento. The bill, which would also require bus drivers, upon a renewal of their annual school bus driver safety certificate, to receive training in child-safety check procedures, will now go before the Assembly Education Committee for consideration on June 22.
As they did on April 5, 2016, Paul Lee’s mother and father traveled to the state capital to testify at the hearing in support of SB 1072, a bill authored by Senator Tony Mendoza and named after their son. Though the hearing was difficult and emotional for the family, they are pleased the bill is moving forward.
“My son would be very happy with this,” said Mrs. Lee after the bill passed on Monday. “We deeply thank you for your goodwill, support and care because without it, we would not be able to be here right now. It is an amazing comfort for our family.”
Paul Lee was a 19-year old autistic student who attended Sierra Adult School in Whittier and could not verbally communicate. On September 11, 2015, he died after being left behind on a school bus in record-breaking heat, with the window up, after the bus driver had given the “all-clear” that the bus was empty. Paul’s body was discovered hours later aboard that same bus parked at the school bus parking lot.
Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP and the Yun Law Firm represent the family in a wrongful death lawsuit against Pupil Transportation Cooperative and the Whittier Union High School District. In February 2016, the bus company admitted during discovery that it is vicariously liable for the conduct of its bus driver, Armando Ramirez, and that the driver’s conduct was the cause of Paul’s death.
Two months later, school bus driver Armando Ramirez was arrested and charged with felony dependent adult abuse. The 37-year-old Apple Valley resident entered a plea of not guilty to the charge and is scheduled to appear in court again next month.