School board CEO Darrin Pike is horrified and upset about an incident Wednesday morning in which a school bus driver is alleged to have been impaired, compromising the safety of children.
There were four teenage high school students on the bus when the arrest of the driver happened at about the second bus stop on the route to Bishops College in St. John’s.
“This is not something you can, in any kind of world, imagine happening in the school system and is totally unacceptable,” said Pike, CEO and director of education for the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District.
“If this is proven to be actual fact (in court) that we have a driver that was impaired while they are driving, then our reaction is to be expected — it’s not good.”
Police received an anonymous tip just before 8 a.m. about a possible impaired driver of a school bus in the area of Old Bay Bulls Road.
A 71-year-old man has been charged with impaired driving and operation of a motor vehicle with over 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.
He was released to appear in court at a later date. A Royal Newfoundland Constabulary spokeswoman said a replacement driver arrived at the scene prior to the arrest of the accused.
“The RNC takes impaired driving very seriously, and once again this anonymous complaint led to an impaired driver being (taken) off our roads and keeping our communities safe,” said Const. Nadia Churchill.
Pike said if the charge results in a conviction, the board, like the public, will look for appropriate justice.
“This is one of those cases where rare is not good enough. There’s only one answer and it has got to be zero,” said Pike, who could not recall a similar incident in recent years.
School administrators sent a message Wednesday to parents and guardians of its students.
“As you know, we as the administration of Bishops College High take the safety of our students extremely seriously and we are disappointed by this incident,” school officials said in a statement. The message asked those with concerns about buses to contact the school.
The driver is employed by City Wide, a private contactor, and it is believed he has been a driver for a number of years, Pike said.
While his future employment as any kind of driver is up to City Wide, he has been suspended from school bus routes, Pike said.
About 900 buses move 47,000 students through the system. While there were only four students on the bus and the board is glad no one was hurt on rain-slicked roads, that doesn’t mean it’s any less shocking, Pike said.
“It doesn’t mitigate the issue,” he said.
“This is something that cannot occur. We’re glad someone did issue a complaint and the RNC jumped on it as quickly as it did.”