Pasco celebrates school bus trespassing law, inspired by murder of local driver in 2021

Group of people sitting for picture to celebrate the act passing.
Nancy Lenhart, the widow of Robert L. Lenhart, center, legislators, community members and Pasco School District officials during a celebration of the passage of the Robert L. Lenhart Act. (Credit: Johanna Bejarano / NWPB) 


Community members, school bus drivers and legislators gathered at the Richard L. Lenhart Transportation Center in Pasco to celebrate a new law. The Richard L. Lenhart Act passed through Washington’s legislature this year. It makes it a crime to trespass on public school buses.  

The bill was inspired in Pasco’s School District by bus driver Richard L. Lenhart, 72, who was killed on a bus with students on it in September 2021. 

“Until Mr. Lenhart was murdered on his bus, no one knew that it wasn’t a crime to trespass on a public school bus, that those laws didn’t extend to the buses,” said Russell Shjerven, the secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local Union 839 in Pasco.  

The law makes a school bus trespass a gross misdemeanor and it takes effect in June.  

According to the Revised Code of Washington, a gross misdemeanor punishment includes up to nearly a year in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both. 

The celebration of the law’s passage in Pasco included talking about Lenhart’s legacy and the challenges school bus drivers face daily, Shjerven said. 

We’ve had bus drivers screamed at, cussed at, spit on, assaulted and so, now, hopefully when people see the placards on the buses that say this is a crime to get on the bus and do that it will deter them,” Shjerven said. 

The support of legislators representing Tri-Cities was decisive in getting the law passed, Shjerven said Sen. Nikki Torres, R-Pasco, representing Legislative District 15, was one of them. 

“We desperately needed this bill to take place, and in such a short session, we all worked together really hard and made amendments to the bill that we needed to make sure it passed on both ends without any issues,” Torres said.  

State Rep. Mark Klicker, R-Walla Walla, was the bill’s primary sponsor in the House.  

“You never realize and understand the threat and how you have to take care of these kids. You do not understand until you have experienced what Mr. Lenhart experienced. This law is huge,” Klicker said.  

Sen. Perry Dozie, R-Walla Walla, said when Lenhart’s widow, Nancy Lenhart, spoke to them about this legislation it was really an easy decision to work hard to move this through.  

Washington is now the ninth state with laws concerning safety on public school buses. Florida, New York and Missouri have similar laws.