Whittier Daily News - Parents of autistic teen who died on Whittier school bus praise new safety law

September 29, 2016

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State Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), with, center, Eun Ha Lee, mother of Paul Lee, and, right, April Lopez of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities at a  press conference regarding the signing of SB 1072, also known as the “Paul Lee School Bus Safety Law”, into law at the Whittier City Hall. Sept. 28, 2016. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb, SGV Tribune/ SCNG)
State Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), with, center, Eun Ha Lee, mother of Paul Lee, and, right, April Lopez of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities at a press conference regarding the signing of SB 1072, also known as the “Paul Lee School Bus Safety Law”, into law at the Whittier City Hall. Sept. 28, 2016. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb, SGV Tribune/ SCNG)

WHITTIER - A day after Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 1072, written after an autistic Whittier teen died last year when left unattended on a bus for several hours, family said they hoped the new law would prevent unnecessary deaths.

Hun Joon “Paul” Lee’s parents, Eun Ha Lee and Sang Sik Lee, and his sister, Eiden Lee, joined the bill’s author, state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, in front of Whittier City Hall on Wednesday to acknowledge the governor’s action.

“This bill will protect the most vulnerable of our students, like my son, who we tragically lost last year,” Eun Ha Lee said, as she fought back tears.

“The signing of this bill is a warm hug from heaven,” she added.

• PHOTOS: At Wednesday’s press conference on the bus safety law

The bill, which will go into law Jan. 1, requires all school buses in California to be equipped with a child-safety alarm system in the back of the vehicle that must be turned off by the bus driver, ensuring the driver checks each seat.

Bus drivers, upon renewal of their annual school bus driver safety certificate, will be required to receive training in child-safety check procedures.

The new law will go into effect beginning with the 2018-19 school year.

Lee, 19, who was nonverbal, was left alone on a bus owned by the Pupil Transportation Cooperative, which rents the lot from Whittier Union High School District, for about seven hours on a sweltering day.

“The Paul Lee School Bus Safety Law will prevent future tragedies by requiring every school bus in the state to be equipped with a child-safety alarm system,” Mendoza said. “No parent should fear that their child will not return home safely at the end of the day,”

He expressed gratitude for the Lees’ support in the passage of the bill.

“I thank the Lee family for their courage and fortitude during this process despite their heart-wrenching sadness,” he said. “Your strength and courage in dealing with this dreadful situation is beyond imagination.”

Mendoza said the cost to districts is estimated at $150 per device, which will be covered by the transportation money they receive.

Since Lee’s death, bus driver Armando Abel Ramirez of Apple Valley was charged with a felony count of dependent adult abuse causing death and is out on $50,000 bail. A preliminary hearing setting conference is scheduled for Oct. 26 in Norwalk Superior Court.

The Lee family also has sued the cooperative — a joint powers agency composed of seven school districts in the Whittier and Pico Rivera area — for wrongful death.

http://www.whittierdailynews.com/social-affairs/20160928/parents-of-autistic-teen-who-died-on-whittier-school-bus-praise-new-safety-law