Last week, six students were tragically killed on their bus ride home from Woodmore Elementary School in Chattanooga, TN. Three others remain critically injured. Numerous complaints were previously filed against the bus driver, who worked for the private contractor Durham School Services. Despite this well-documented history of unsafe and erratic behavior, the driver was not pulled from the route. He has now been charged with vehicular homicide and the authorities from the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating in a separate proceeding.
The contract with the school district requires Durham to follow a specific screening protocol for drivers, and provides that if the School District has concerns over a driver’s performance, Durham “may take whatever action it deems necessary and appropriate to address” the issue. So far, at least one email from Chattanooga officials alerting Durham to the driver’s dangerous behavior has been reported. Whether the School District forwarded more of the litany of complaints it received remains to be seen.
This tragedy once again highlights an issue we have considered numerous times—the outsourcing of basic civic services to private companies. Here, the many complaints by students and parents to school officials had to filter first through the school, then to the district, and only then to Durham. The distant relationship between the contractor and the students may have made it more difficult for Durham to receive the complaints and respond appropriately. At the same time, that same relationship may have made it easier for the driver to escape direct oversight by school officials.
What do you think? Does the Outsourcing of School Bus Services Present a Safety Risk?
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