Legislature taking notice of children being left on school buses

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Despite a full schedule, the Minnesota Legislature isn't forgetting about students being left on school buses this legislative session, Northland's NewsCenter reports.

A proposed bill, which was heard by the Senate Transportation Committee, would require drivers to inspect their buses after their routes. Under the bill, if a child is found left on the bus, prosecutors would have the option to press charges if certain school and transportation leaders aren't informed.

In addition, the bill says bus drivers would also not be allowed to drive any vehicle that has been inspected and marked "out of service" by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Last year, a school bus driver in Cloquet was charged with child endangerment, accused of leaving a 3-year-old boy on a school bus for hours in freezing temperatures, The Associated Press reported.

The AP says the child was left on the bus after other children were dropped off at the Fond du Lac tribal Head Start building on Jan. 14. He was reportedly discovered three hours later when a Fond du Lac Transportation employee walking by the vehicle noticed the boy waving and pounding on a bus window.

The blog MN Labor said the driver, Thomas Mitchell Soderholm, 53, of Mahtowa, Minnesota, entered an Alford plea in the case in July. Under terms of the plea, Soderholm admitted that there was enough evidence for a jury to find him guilty, but he didn't admit to actually committing the crime.

The judge in the case issued a stay of adjudication for one year and fined Soderholm $200 for court costs.

In a reverse situation, a 4-year-old boy from Marshall, Minnesota, was left behind by a school bus following a trip to a museum in Brookings, South Dakota, last April, USA Today said.

The superintendent of Marshall Public Schools apologized and said the district was reviewing field trip procedures. A police report was filed, but there were no charges.

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