Dear School Superintendent/School Board President,
We are the Members of the Stand Up for School Bus Safety Coalition. We are reaching out to you because we, like you, want to make sure students have a safe ride to and from school.
You hold a very important responsibility overseeing the transportation of your students to and from school. We wanted to share our concerns about the company you currently contract with – Durham School Bus Services. You may be aware that in 2016, six children in our community of Chattanooga, Tenn. lost their lives in an accident on a Durham bus. We believe that Durham is putting children in danger around the country because of its cavalier approach to safety and maintenance.
Leading up to the accident, complaints from parents and even school officials in our community went unaddressed by Durham. And even in the face of such tragedy, we believe Durham has failed to clean up its act. Our coalition represents parents, educators, local elected officials, students and drivers who came together after this incident to raise awareness of the dangers of Durham and make sure that every American child, in every school district, is safely transported to and from school.
Durham has a documented track record of disregarding basic safety standards in Chattanooga, but also in other school districts across the country, often in breach of its contract with those school districts. News outlets in numerous communities have reported Durham’s reputation of operating buses that are old and inadequately maintained. The contractor also undermines its drivers’ ability to provide safe service by offering insufficient training, and pressuring employees to operate unsafe buses even after they raise concerns.
Now, a new report based on Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data finds a significant gap between the safety records of Durham and its subsidiaries compared to their largest competitors, First Student and Student Transportation, Inc (STI). Reports coming out of Durham’s school district clients from across the country demonstrate the sad outcomes of such unsafe operations.
We believe that the safety of children should come first and we want to ensure the tragedy that happened in Chattanooga doesn’t happen anywhere else. That is why we are contacting you and recently created safeschoolbus.org to make sure parents, educators, students, administrators and elected officials have the facts about Durham’s record on safety. As you read into the new findings on Durham, we urge you to commit to holding the company accountable and reevaluate your relationship to make sure the safety of children comes first. Whether by strengthening the safety language and liquidated damages in your RFP, better enforcing the contract that is in place or considering other options for your transportation provider, we believe there is so much more each and every school district can do to protect the safety of our children.
If you would like to learn more about our coalition and our experience with Durham, please visit safeschoolbus.org or contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sincerely, Members of the Chattanooga Stand Up for School Bus Safety Coalition