This is in response to the article "Amputee Takes the DMV to Court for Right to Drive School Bus" by Jenifer Warren that appeared in The Times on July 20. People reading that article may be misled into thinking that the Department of Motor Vehicles discriminates against individuals because of physical impairments.
The Department of Motor Vehicles, in cooperation with the California Highway Patrol and the State Department of Education, has established certain medical standards for school bus drivers that have been in effect since 1976 and are equitably applied to drivers in California. They have been adopted as a model for licensing laws in a number of states across the nation.
Before a driver may be certificated as a school bus driver, he or she is expected to be exceptionally qualified, not only physically and mentally, but also well trained and of good moral character. Transportation of California's school students falls within special categories and demands that the Department of Motor Vehicles and each prospective bus driver undertake responsibilities. The unusual responsibilities of these drivers do not permit taking calculated risks for rehabilitation, as may be considered in some personal driving categories.
In Mr. Steve Gaut's case, his application for the school bus driver certificate was denied because the physical standards do not allow for the loss of a foot or a leg. Mr. Gaut requested, and was granted, an administrative hearing and the department referee recommended that he be issued the certificate. The referee's recommendation was based on review of the total evidence presented at the hearing that Mr. Gaut should be reasonably expected to safely operate a school bus, with few limitations, in considering his demonstrated ability to compensate for the loss of his foot and lower leg.
As required by statute, the report and evidence presented at Mr. Gaut's hearing were reviewed by the Certificate Action Review Board. This board, comprised of the appointed representative from the Department of Education, California Highway Patrol, and Department of Motor Vehicles, overruled the Department of Motor Vehicle's Referee and voted to not issue the certificate to Mr. Gaut. Mr. Gaut's next avenue of appeal was through the Superior Court, and his case is presently pending further deliberation. The court has ordered that a temporary certificate be issued to Mr. Gaut, which has been done. I have determined that there is a possibility the Certificate Action Review Board may reconvene to consider Mr. Gaut's special circumstances.
In summary, the Department of Motor Vehicles had not acted without cause, authority and concern for school pupil safety in initially refusing to issue Mr. Gaut a certificate. However, when circumstances allow, the department will review and reconsider the merits of each individual case, without prejudgment or discrimination.
L.T. BUCHANAN JR.
Chief, Driver Safety and Licensing
Editor's note: On Aug. 13, the Certificate Action Review Board reversed its earlier decision and granted Steve Gaut a special permit to drive a school bus.