Bus driver disciplined for drop-off during flood

Friday, April 4, 2008

A bus driver who dropped students blocks from their home during a flood last month, forcing them to wade through waist-high water, is still working for the company.

"There was disciplinary action. The driver was dealt with according to corporate procedure. She has been retrained and counseled on the situation," said Kimberly Mulcahy, a spokeswoman for First Student, the company the Cape Girardeau School District contracts to provide busing services.

Procedures were reviewed again in preparation for Thursday's storm, which was predicted to bring up to 5 inches of rain. But by dismissal time, only about a half an inch of rain had fallen.

Employees are advised to bring students to Central Junior High if roads become impassable. According to Patrick Morgan, director of administrative services, "one or two" buses did so March 18, after more than 10 inches of rain fell on the region. School administrators called parents, who met their children at the school.

"Unfortunately, one bus did not follow directions," Morgan said.

He said the driver tried several routes and "at one point was able to get within five or six blocks" of the students' homes. He said the driver advised the group of junior high and high school students to stick to high spots of the road and to contact their parents, assuming they had cell phones.

One parent wrote to the Southeast Missourian that the water near Clippard Elementary was "waist-high" and that an adult had to help guide the handful of students through the water "by pointing out the center of road was highest and by shouting out to them where the rapid water was and where the storm drains were."

"The kids should have been brought back to the school," Morgan said. He said that even though school was dismissed early due to the flooding, it takes awhile to round up bus drivers.

Interim superintendent Pat Fanger wrote in an e-mail that she was "terribly disturbed" the incident occurred, "especially since we had put in place an emergency plan for any buses that could not drop off students safely."

Mulcahy declined to elaborate on the disciplinary action taken against the bus driver. She said the employee is a "long-term driver with the company" and that she "had no other issues with us."


335-6611, extension 123

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