Some bus drivers with undetected criminal histories have caused problems in several states this school year. So do you really know who's behind the wheel in Amarillo? NewsChannel 10 spent months uncovering the pasts of area bus drivers.
Most of what we've found will put parents at ease. We dug through city, county and state records to make sure people driving your children can be trusted. The good news is the most serious crime we found came from a driver in Amarillo who pleaded guilty to giving tobacco to a minor. A police report shows Gail Graham Clayton gave cigarettes to students on her bus. Since our investigation we've learned she's no longer driving buses.
We found no serious criminal history for the more than 200 other bus drivers in Amarillo, Canyon, River Road, Bushland, Highland Park, Hereford, and Pampa independent school districts. To conduct our investigation, we requested names of bus drivers from seven area school districts. All but one of those districts agreed - Amarillo Independent School District tells us they don't keep those records. AISD spokeswoman Becky McIlraith says "a simple list of names is not going to enhance the safety, what enhances our safety and ensures the safety is the fact that our teachers and administrators are monitoring."
The district has a contract with Durham School Services which provides transportation... And McIlraith says the company is in charge of keeping those records. But some parents tell us they'd feel safer if the school district did have a list of bus driver names handy. Kathy Taylor's daughter rides the bus to school in Amarillo daily and would prefer the district maintained a record of school bus drivers. "I would feel more comfortable if they did. I didn't know they didn't," she says.
Another parent, Heather Peters, adds "that surprises me. They should definitely have a list. There is a need for it." Something else that surprised parents... AISD officials initially refused to obtain the bus driver names from Durham to release to NewsChannel 10, until we filed a complaint with the State Attorney General's Office. McIlraith says the district wanted to first make sure they could legally release the bus drivers' names, and they did send us those records after the attorney general's office intervened. She also notes the fact that our investigation found no serious criminal history for bus drivers is proof their system is working.