OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Parents, teachers and concerned community members have issued letters to more than 200 school districts across the United States, warning them about safety concerns with a popular school bus company.
The Stand Up for School Bus Safety Coalition, based in Chattanooga, Tennesee, said the letters are to spread awareness on a number concerns they have with Durham School Services.
Schools that received the letters, including 22 districts in Kansas and Missouri, use the bus company.
Michele Schuessler said her four children — all of whom are enrolled in the Blue Valley School District, one of the schools the coalition said they issued a letter to — have had no problems on Durham buses.
“I’m comfortable with my kids riding the Blue Valley School District buses. I’ve never had an issue with it besides maybe bullying and stuff like that, but safety-wise I’m good with it,” Schuessler said. “I think it’s important that our kids are safe at all times, and it’s the district’s and bus’ responsibility to keep our kids safe.”
But that’s a responsibility the coalition said Durham isn’t meeting. The letters indicate Durham has ignored numerous warnings regarding the safety of its buses and drivers.
The coalition said it believes Durham’s lack of action was a significant factor in the 2016 school bus crash that killed six students in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
In March 2017, a Durham bus caught fire in Leawood, Kansas, while on its after-school run. The driver was able to get herself and students off of the bus unharmed.
A Blue Valley School District spokesperson said the school did not receive a letter from the coalition. However, FOX4 showed them a copy of the letter, and the school said they need time to review it before making comment.
The coalition hopes changes will happen before another serious incident takes place. That’s a change Schuessler hopes will happen for the right reasons.
“To me, it’s just really important that kid safety comes first, whether it be the drivers or the bus’ condition being kept up to date, and that needs to be a priority for our kids,” she said.
Durham School Services issued the following statement:
“With respect to our safety track record, the fact is that we hold the highest safety rating awarded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and have one of the most robust safety programs in the student transportation industry.”
The coalition has put together an incident map of previous Durham incidents and more information on concerns with the company. You can find that information here.