For Immediate Release
Contact: Dale Wetzel, Public Information Specialist
BISMARCK, N.D., June 6, 2019 – State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said Thursday a new state audit report suggests improvements to North Dakota’s school bus inspection system.
The North Dakota Highway Patrol does safety inspections of buses that are owned by school districts. (Some school district buses are provided by private contractors.) On Thursday, State Auditor Josh Gallion released an audit report of the Highway Patrol that mentioned its school bus inspection procedures.
Baesler said the Department of Public Instruction does not "advertise that inspections are done on 100 percent of school buses," as Gallion claimed in a press release about the audit report. The NDDPI’s guidance manual for school districts and bus drivers asks that they have their school buses inspected annually by the Highway Patrol.
However, state law and regulation do not require annual inspections, and the NDDPI does not have legal authority to compel them, Baesler said.
"This audit includes suggestions about how we can improve school bus inspection procedures and reporting," Baesler said. "We welcome that conversation. We are always open to explore ways of enhancing student and school bus safety."
The audit suggests that school districts have been lax in reporting ownership and inspection information about school buses. It speculates about whether state school aid could be withheld from districts that do not provide complete information.
Baesler said the North Dakota Legislature would have to decide on whether to give the Department of Public Instruction the authority to withhold state aid from schools that submit incomplete school transportation reports.