The parents of a special-needs student who died after being left on a school bus in Whittier on a hot summer day thanked Gov. Jerry Brown today for signing legislation requiring school buses to be equipped with an alarm system to ensure passengers are not forgotten.
"Although we tragically lost our son Paul last year after he was left behind on a school bus for seven hours, we know that the signing of this bill is a warm hug from heaven that will enable all children who ride a school bus to arrive at their destination safely," said Eun Ha Lee, the mother of 19-year-old Hun Joon "Paul'" Lee, who was found dead on a bus parked in a Whittier bus yard on Sept. 11, 2015.
Authorities say the bus driver, Armando Abel Ramirez, failed to check the bus after dropping off students in the morning, and failed to realize that Lee, who was autistic, was still on the vehicle when he parked and locked it at the bus yard in the midst of a late-summer heat wave.
Ramirez has been charged with a felony count of dependent adult abuse resulting in death.
Senate Bill 1072, authored by Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, will require school buses in California to be outfitted with child-safety alarms. The alarm system generates a noise when the bus is turned off, and the driver must walk to the rear of the bus to turn it off, ensuring that the vehicle is checked to determine if any children are still on board.
The bill also requires bus drivers to receive training in child-safety check procedures every year when they renew their bus driver safety certificate.
"The Paul Lee School Bus Safety Law will protect every child who rides a school bus to and from school every day," Mendoza said. "... No parent should fear that their child will not return home safely at the end of the day.'"