For the last three days, officials with Woodward Public Schools have been investigating an incident in which a district driver of one of the school buses allegedly hurried over some railroad tracks before a train arrived and hit the crossing safety arms at the 9th Street crossing location.
According to some parents of children on the bus, the driver never stopped before attempting to cross the tracks, as required by law. In one case, there was an alleged video of the incident that was turned over to authorities.
According to Oklahoma statute, which is also included in the Oklahoma State Department of Education School Bus Driver Manuel, “The driver of any school bus shall:
- Not cross a railroad track or tracks unless the driver stops the bus within 50 feet of an not closer than 15 feet of the tracks.
- Listen and look in each direction along the tracks for an approaching train, and ascertains that no train is approaching.
- When it is safe to do so, the driver may drive the bus across the tracks in a gear that permits the bus to complete the crossing without a change of gears
- The driver shall not shift the gears while crossing the tracks.
- Stop at all railroad crossings whether or not they are carrying passengers.
According to Woodward Public School Spokeswoman, Michelle McDonald, police investigated the incident initially and Woodward Public Schools performed an internal investigation.
According to privacy laws and public school policy regarding personnel issues, officials at the school are prohibited in discussing publicly the particulars of any personnel action. However, they can provide an update into the current employment status of current or former employees. That is - they either are or are not working for the district.
“The police were involved from a traffic standpoint and we conducted our own investigation,” McDonald said. “What we concluded as a result of that is that the bus driver did violate our transportation safety policy and he is no longer employed by our district.”
McDonald went on to say that student safety is the number one value practiced by the district and its leaders. She said each and every case that comes before them regarding this top priority is promptly and property investigated before any public statement is made regarding any alleged incident.
“There was a lot that went into doing a proper investigation in this case,” she said. “It is important that while we are doing that, we are responsive to the public’s need to know while also adhering to privacy laws.”