Bus Woes

9 years 4 months 3 days ago May 29, 2007 May 29, 2007 Tuesday, May 29 2007 Tuesday, May 29, 2007 9:48:39 PM CDT in News

It's training that helps with accountability, an accountability KOMU's Lauren Whitney found may be lacking when it comes to the other adults in your child's life.

"It's a power play between a 20-year-old and a 15-year-old," Laura Turner said.

And she would know. Turner says she's had problems with her children's bus drivers for as long as she can remember.

"Ever since 1996 when my oldest started riding the bus, we had a bus driver who backed into a car," Turner said.

She has four daughters, three of whom ride the bus regularly, and she says she has had enough with the drivers and management of First Student bus company.

When Turner's oldest was in middle school she told her mom the driver was falling asleep at the wheel. She says when she contacted the company they didn't take her seriously.

"My children are telling me the bus driver is falling asleep on the bus," Turner said. "Three days later I get a phone call [and] the bus driver fell asleep and ran off the bridge at Mexico Gravel. My child was injured."

The problems aren't any better now.

"[The bus driver] used profanities, and she's used profanities to my children," Turner said. "What started in December was where the stop was, are they going to be out at the stop are they going to be waiting for them at the stop? Well no, not at six thirty in the morning when it's dark and there's no shoulder, no street lights, no anything."

The Turners live outside the city off Route Z. Street lights are out of the question so Turner had her girls wait inside. When they saw the bus they would head out. It took approximately 30 seconds, but that's 30 seconds the driver couldn't spare.

She told the girls they had to be waiting, even after the schools and bus company told Turner it was all right.

When she brought this up with the driver, she says the answer went like this:

"I don't care who you talk to, who you write, i'm the boss on this bus."

But the problems continued. The girls were told they needed to walk behind the bus when they got off, even though rules printed inside the bus required students to pass in front.

"When they walked in front of the bus, she just laid on her horn," Turner said.

Worse still, she says when the girls continued to walk in front of the bus they received bus citations and were assigned seats.

Fed up, Turner asked for a meeting with the bus company and the driver, but First Student said no.

"I wanted to sit down and talk to somebody civilly because I've lost my mind talking to everyone over the phone," Turner said.

She's not the only one...

No one from KOMU was even able to set foot onto First Student's Columbia facilities. Our calls to them were immediately transferred to St. Louis, where two more representatives transferred us to Cincinnati, OH. Finally, Jennifer Robinson, a public relations official for the company, said an interview with KOMU wasn't going to happen.

Instead she sent a short, three paragraph statement to address Turner's concerns. [To read first student's full statement, click on "First Student's Response" in the KOMU Story Toolbox at the top of the page.]

The first and only paragraph that directly speaks to Turner's issues states that after reviewing the matter, the driver in question was disciplined and permanently removed from the route in question.

But what does that mean?

"I don't think she's fired. I think she's on someone else's route," Turner said.

So we called Jennifer again and left numerous messages. She never responded.

Since the new driver took over the route, Turner and her daughters have not had any problems.

"My problem is when I do have a problem I have to call the bus barn and as soon as I call the bus barn it's always, when are they going to call me back how is this going to be resolved is this going to be resolved," Turner said.

But she is worried this won't be the last issue she has with First Student.

"The problem is with the bus barn and its employees. No accountability, no one has to follow through on what they say they're going to do," Turner said. "It's this bus driver that week its another bus driver another week. A body is not a body when it's transporting my children," Turner said.

KOMU also tried contacting the Columbia Public School District about the issue but at this time, no one has returned our calls.

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