A school bus safety measure designed to curb the types of terrible abuse documented by a Daily News series of stories this year won support from key legislators last night and was on track to become law, sponsors said.
The legislation requires that security cameras or dummy devices be installed this year on about half the buses ferrying kids to public schools, said Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr. (D-Bronx).
The rest of the buses would need to have the devices on board by 2010, he said.
"This is a very good idea because, as the Daily News series showed us, there are a lot of horrific things happening on school buses," he said.
"We also need to protect the innocent from false allegations, and we know that cameras don't lie."
When the cameras and "shadow box" dummies are introduced, the drivers, monitors and kids won't know which buses have the real devices and which have the fakes, Diaz said.
The News' "School Bus Disgrace" series spurred Chancellor Joel Klein to overhaul the system used to investigate incidents of physical and sexual abuse aboard the buses.
Klein promised to hire more investigators, track the severity of complaints and perform periodic audits of complaints to ensure they are handled properly.
His move came after The News described numerous shocking incidents - including how 7-year-old and 10-year-old girls were forced to perform oral sex on three teenage boys on a bus transporting special-needs students - an assault that one of the parents said was never fully investigated.
The News also revealed that there were only seven investigators to handle 3,547 school bus-related complaints last year.
Diaz said the state legislation was creating a "pilot program" that he hopes will eventually extend to the entire state.
A total of 55,000 school buses transport 2.3 million children to school each day in the state, according to state Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge), who advanced the bill in the upper house.
Darren Dopp, a spokesman for Gov. Spitzer, said he had not seen the legislation yet, but he vowed, "If it's a good bill, we'll consider it."