The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is urgently recommending an independent audit of the Baltimore schools’ transportation department, saying students remain at risk after a crash that killed six people.
The agency made recommendations Tuesday to state and city school officials as a result of its investigation of the November collision between a school bus and a transit bus. The school bus driver and five people on the transit bus were killed. No students were on board the school bus.
The investigation revealed that the school bus driver, Glenn Chappell, had been in at least 12 crashes in the past five years. He also had a documented history of health issues, including hypertension, diabetes and seizures. Investigators said he suffered a seizure just one week before the wreck.
In addition to the audit, the agency said the state should mandate that it be notified when drivers are found to be not qualified to drive during pre-employment screenings. Once the audit is complete, the agency said the school system must take corrective action to make sure all bus drivers are properly screened and meet qualifications.
The report also identifies failures and inadequacies on the part of the city’s public school system. After Chappell was involved in a crash that injured a teacher’s aide in 2011, the school system didn’t evaluate his medical condition, nor did its transportation department document or review his prior crashes.
BCPS also does not adequately maintain crash reports, criminal background reports or crash costs documentation, and uses a drug testing program that is not in compliance with federal standards, investigators wrote.
Throughout Chappell’s tenure as a bus driver for AAAfordable Transportation, a firm that provides bus drivers to Baltimore public schools, the school system received 11 alerts about criminal charges pending against him.
The alerts come from the Criminal Justice Information Service, a system all contractors are required by law to use for background checks on their bus drivers. The school system didn’t keep those alerts on file, the report says.
“The NTSB is concerned that these BCPS shortcomings in its oversight of school bus drivers place BCPS students, as well as the public, at risk,” the report reads. “Although BCPS has taken some steps to improve its processes, the risks posed by unqualified drivers remain.”
Representatives of the Baltimore City Public Schools and the Maryland Department of Education did not immediately respond to calls for comment on Tuesday.
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