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Santa Clarita Schools : Assembly Panel to Probe Bus Charges

October 26, 1988|STEVE PADILLA | Times Staff Writer

The Assembly Transportation Committee will investigate allegations that school bus drivers are poorly trained and buses are poorly maintained in two Santa Clarita School districts, the committee's chairman announced Tuesday.

In a letter to the William S. Hart Union School District released Tuesday night at a Board of Trustees meeting, Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda) wrote, "The Transportation Committee is deeply interested in the issue of school bus safety. . . ."

Katz asked Superintendent Clyde Smyth to be prepared to answer questions concerning allegations about the performance and operation of buses in the district at a hearing at 9 a.m. next Tuesday at San Fernando City Hall.

In the last week, bus drivers working for Laidlaw Transit have been accused of using drugs on the job. There also have been allegations by former bus company employees that driving instructors ordered student drivers to alter time sheets showing they had more training than they really had.

Laidlaw provides bus service for 3,600 students in the Hart and Newhall school districts. Bus drivers are employees of Laidlaw, not the districts.

At trustees meeting, Ed Judson, Laidlaw senior vice president, released results of drug tests that drivers took last week in response to the drug-use allegations. Twenty-eight drivers had no trace of drugs or alcohol in their systems, he said, while one driver tested positively for marijuana and was fired.

Judson admitted that Laidlaw officials did not observe company policies that require bus drivers to be tested for drugs after an accident. He said that since December, 1986, the company had failed to ask drivers involved in 15 accidents to be tested for drugs. He blamed the failure on managers no longer with the company, and he said Laidlaw has instituted new procedures to ensure that tests are administered after accidents.

Hart district officials defended the safety maintenance record of school buses Tuesday night. Assistant Superintendent Dan Hanigan said the California Highway Patrol conducted a routine inspection of 25% of the 51-bus fleet and found the vehicles were sound except for minor problems that were corrected.

"I believe our bus fleet would rank with the best as far as safety," Hanigan said.

The trustees voted to hire an independent consultant to review Laidlaw's performance.

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