Thanks to the Escambia County School District (ECSD), it will be written – in law – that trespassing on a school bus is a first-degree demeanor.

Rob Doss, director of transportation for ECSD, says that getting the legislation passed was quite the mission. Currently, it is illegal to trespass on school property, but school buses weren’t included in that definition – until now. The law will become effective in October of 2018. Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill on Friday, April 6.

According to an article in the Pensacola News Journal,“House Bill 495 covered a range of issues relating to K-12 education, but an amendment pushed by the Escambia County School District redefines school property to include buses.”

Doss believes the exclusion of school buses as school property was simply an oversight.

“Laws have to be very precise,” he says. “The precision makes it more difficult for people to weasel out of accountability.”

 Threats to school buses are a regular occurrence. Doss recalls an incident in Alabama in which an individual trespassed on a bus, threatened the students and killed the driver.

“We looked into the laws in other states and looked into Florida law. We decided we needed to close that loophole up,” Doss says.

The process began with Doss writing up some legislation and proposing it. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the first time.

“These kinds of things are attached to a bill in the hopes of the bill making it all the way through the process. It didn’t work out last year, so this year we contacted our local legislator, Frank White, for help,” Doss says. “He did a great job for us and for citizens all throughout Florida.”

By definition, trespassing means being in a place without authorization.

“I think that by getting it codified in law, people will think twice about taking the facility for granted and will not be as likely to put themselves in that position,” Doss says. “We’re thankful to have the approval of the legislation and for what it will mean for the safety of our kids and our bus crews. That’s the biggest thing.”