Part of a damning report on a perceived lack of oversight on school bus drivers by CBS News centered on a former school bus driver being investigated for child pornography, and a statement he apparently made to police that his former employer was still trying to get him to come back to work despite his criminal background.
The CBS News report this week gave the man's name as Kelly Shane Hooper and shows him in what appears to be a police interrogation video telling an officer his former employer, Durham School Services, told him that if he accepted a pay rate of $12.80 an hour he could have his old job back as a school bus driver.
In 2015 while under investigation for possessing child pornography in Texas, Hooper fled to Kansas and got a job there as a school bus driver; shortly afterwards he was arrested, convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison. While company spokeswoman Kate Walden did not speak to this driver specifically, she told School Transportation News that the CBS report was "sensationalistic" and that the company's hiring driver screening and hiring process is "rigorous."
"Our school bus drivers are among the most highly screened, trained and tested drivers on the road; they undergo third-party criminal background checks, motor vehicle record reviews, drug testing and medical exams, among other screening tools," said Kate Walden, director of corporate communications for Durham and parent company National Express, LLC.
She explained that driver candidates go on to receive specialized classroom and behind-the-wheel training, and Durham meets state and federal mandates for school bus driver screening and training.
Walden added that Durham adheres to an internal standard of not hiring any applicant who has had a felony or misdemeanor conviction involving violence, weapons, controlled substances, sex crimes, or burglary within the last 10 years. This, despite no state or federal mandates requiring the company to do so. She did say that exceptions are dealt with on a case by case basis after further review.
She also commented on the CBS report that Durham has turned to Craigslist and to advertise school bus driver jobs.
"In regards to recruitment, we advertise through social media as well as print and broadcast media outlets. Regardless of what channels we use, each potential candidate goes through our rigorous vetting process," she said.