No monitoring done of N.B. school vehicle safety policies, coroners jury told

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New Brunswick had policies governing school vehicles and student travel at the time of a tragic January 2008 accident, but there was nothing in place to monitor compliance, a school official told a coroner's inquest on Tuesday.
John McLaughlin, superintendent of District 15, testified that the policies, which are now more strictly enforced, were initially relayed to school principals through informal conversations.
The inquest is being held into an accident involving a 15-passenger van used by Bathurst High School that collided with a truck on a slush-covered highway in January 2008, killing seven members of the boys basketball team and the wife of the coach.

McLaughlin said since the accident, the district has started a series of audits to ensure provincial and district policies for student travel are upheld. He said there is also conversation with staff to ensure people understand the policies.
He will provide a report to the district education council in June on results of the audits.
Asked if he thought drivers should have higher class of licence, McLaughlin replied: "As a parent I would feel more comfortable for drivers to have all the training of a bus driver, but as superintendent, I'm not qualified to make that decision."
McLaughlin testified that it wouldn't be feasible to use yellow school buses instead of vans for every student activity, because there aren't enough of them.
"We would have to cancel student activities ... not just sports but also music, drama, etcetera," he said.
"We have many student activities that involve only four or five students that don't require a large bus."
The van was owned by Bathurst Van Inc., a not-for-profit body consisting of the principal, two vice-principals and a teacher who owned and maintained school vehicles for extracurricular activities.

Organizations: N.B. school, Bathurst High School, Van Inc.

Geographic location: New Brunswick

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  • Jennifer
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Although I strongly agree with a monitoring system and frequent auditing of drivers and vehicles, no matter how protective we are of our children, freak accidents can and will happen, as unfortunate as it is.

    Slushy roads happen, black ice happens. Parents and school officials can be as protective as they want, but these things are sheer accidents.

    The yellow buses when I was going to school years ago were old and loud and emitted some unidentifiable odors, lucky for me we never had any accidents. I think keeping these vehicles under a close eye is a great idea and it should have been ongoing for years, but truthfully, it's not going to keep a busload of 8 year olds for sliding off the road if the driver is going ever so slightly too fast.

  • Jennifer
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    Although I strongly agree with a monitoring system and frequent auditing of drivers and vehicles, no matter how protective we are of our children, freak accidents can and will happen, as unfortunate as it is.

    Slushy roads happen, black ice happens. Parents and school officials can be as protective as they want, but these things are sheer accidents.

    The yellow buses when I was going to school years ago were old and loud and emitted some unidentifiable odors, lucky for me we never had any accidents. I think keeping these vehicles under a close eye is a great idea and it should have been ongoing for years, but truthfully, it's not going to keep a busload of 8 year olds for sliding off the road if the driver is going ever so slightly too fast.