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CCS bus driver’s arrest prompts closer look at state’s Rapback system

A school bus driver was behind the wheel for months with a warrant out for their arrest.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In Ohio, there’s an alert system that’s been in place since 2007 to alert school districts when a teacher or bus driver is arrested. It’s called the Rapback program.

In the case of a Columbus City Schools bus driver, who was arrested on the job this week on charges unrelated to their job, why wasn’t the district notified through the state’s Rapback program?

Aaron Hamilton's 12-year-old son was on a bus Monday morning that was involved in a crash. He said the school bus driver was arrested, in front of his son.

"They're at an age where they're being told to trust the adults that they're put with, and they're complete strangers,” he said. “And that trust gets broken pretty quickly when you see them get arrested in front of you, and then crash your school bus.”

The charges were unrelated to the crash and their role as a school bus driver.

A Columbus City Schools spokesperson said the district did not get a notification from a system called "Rapback."

So what is the Rapback Program?

According to the Ohio Department of Education, it was created to provide additional safeguards against allowing convicted criminals to remain in positions of trust.

All school bus drivers and all licensed educators are required to enroll.

BCI stores fingerprints captured as part of the background check screening process in a separate retained applicant fingerprint database. These prints are searched against all new criminal prints and prints submitted to BCI as part of a court disposition process. When a match is found, BCI provides rap sheet information back to the Department.

It's a system that's had problems before.

In 2014, 10 Investigates uncovered instances when bus drivers in other districts were charged with assault but school leaders had no idea.
So then Attorney General Mike DeWine in response to our coverage rolled out Rapback 2.0 to fix flaws in the system.

So now, nine years later, what went wrong? That's the question Columbus City Schools is trying to answer.

In the case of this CCS bus driver, Franklin County Municipal Court records show four charges from Sept. 18, including domestic violence and assault.
Those records show they are accused of choking and threatening to kill a significant other.

The employee was hired by CCS in March of 2022, months before those charges were filed.

But it only took us a few clicks to find that the same driver had faced similar domestic violence and assault charges in 2017. Records show they are accused of punching a family member in the face -- causing them to bleed. However, court records show they plead guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct.

And because this person was never arrested in any case until Jan. 31 of this year, there was no reason for Rapback to flag them.

We know this because according to ODE the database only issues notifications when the person has been arrested.

Ohio Department of Education sent 10TV the following information. We did not include the first sentence, as it names the driver whom we are not releasing the name of because the charges appeared to have nothing to do with their job as a bus driver.

“The “Rapback” or BCI retained fingerprint database issues notifications upon information that an individual has been arrested, rather than on issuance of a warrant. Regarding Rapback enrollment, ORC 109.5721 allows a public office, such as a school district, that requires a fingerprint background check as a condition of employment to elect to receive Rapback notices. Districts may enroll drivers who have a current (within the past 1 year) background check into Rapback by entering driver demographic information into the School Foundation Payment System (SFPS). More information regarding the Rapback program is available here.

Ohio law requires bus drivers to file a notice with the district superintendent or designee of a conviction for a traffic violation. OAC 3301-83-23 also requires that an employing district or transportation service provider suspend a driver who has been arrested, summoned or indicted for an alleged criminal offense listed in the rule from all duties that require the care, custody or control of a child during the pendency of the criminal action.”

Below is the information we received from Columbus City Schools:

“As part of the driver’s certification process, the transportation department enters the driver’s completed training into the Ohio Department of Education’s Safe Site. It’s my understanding that they are automatically enrolled into the Rapback check. ODE controls the database and communicates with the AG’s office. Transportation conducts the initial FBI and BCII through the AG’s office when a driver is going through the hiring process. Once hired then a driver must renew their FBI check every six years because the BCII check is done nightly by ODE Safesite. We follow the process as outlined on the ODE Rapback Service page.

On the morning of the accident (January 30, 2023), the bus driver was listed in the ODE safe site as active.”

And below is the information 10TV received from the Attorney General’s office, which oversees the program.

“The individual in question was not enrolled in Rapback at all. The background check was only requested to be sent to CCS (and not ODE). The Rapback system checks for Ohio specific records, however we did not receive a record for the DV or assault.”

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