I-Team: Loophole in law allows North Carolina school buses to go uninspected

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There are no legal requirements for safety inspections of charter-school buses.

You'll get no argument from anyone that school buses should be safe. It's why the state requires inspections every 30 days for public school buses.

But charter schools aren't required to provide transportation and, even if they choose to, they get no money for maintenance and there are no requirements that their buses are inspected by the Department of Public Instruction or general mechanics.

In an informal poll, every parent asked told the I-Team they were surprised by the loophole in the law and thought it should change.

"It makes me want to just keep picking him up from school myself," said Aarona Ramsey, who's child attends a charter school in Durham. "I think they should do it like the other public schools."

Another charter parent in Durham, Stephanie Figueroa, had no idea charter buses don't have to be inspected in North Carolina. "There definitely should be," she said.

For charters that do provide transportation, the state offers to inspect their fleets once a year, during the summer. It's up to the charter to take the state up on those annual inspections. Charters can also choose to inspect buses more frequently and some do, like KIPP Durham College Prep. "We follow the state and federal regulations for drivers, licenses, testing, drug testing, etc., and follow state regulations for the 30-day bus inspections," emailed a school spokesperson.

Check to see if charter schools near you offer transportation.

Regular public school buses are required to be inspected by school districts monthly under state law. DPI spokesperson Drew Elliot says the state will inspect 10% of a district's fleet if asked and produce a report comparing districts around the state.

There is no similar law for charter school buses and one mechanic who worked on charter buses told the I-Team on conditions of anonymity that he saw problems routinely: worn tires, broken emergency doors, major oil leaks and leaking roofs.

Elliot says any change in that policy (or lack thereof) would have to be made by the legislature. He suggests parents contact their local state representatives and also express any concerns to their local charter board.

"I would be concerned about transportation if my child were using that," Elliot said. "They should talk to their charter school about that. What do you do to inspect these buses? I think that's the answer."
Related Topics:
educationI-Teamschool busstudent safetynorth carolina newsRaleigh
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