Durham will meet with muni districts after driver dies on duty

Durham will meet with muni districts after driver dies on duty
Published: Nov. 7, 2014 at 5:31 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 7, 2014 at 11:00 PM CST
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MILLINGTON, TN (WMC) - Barely an hour after a Durham School Services municipal school bus driver died on board her bus Friday, transportation leaders for Shelby County's six municipal school districts confirmed Durham's top brass is coming back next week to discuss safety enhancements to their own bus contract.

Doris Hopson, 55, suffered a massive heart attack while driving her Durham school bus for Millington Municipal Schools on Friday morning, according to police and school district sources. She ran the bus off the road with five children on board, according to Durham. None of the children were hurt.

"When Doris Hopson was hired as a Durham bus driver, she had passed her Department of Transportation physical and held a valid medical certificate," said Durham spokesperson Molly Hart. "Durham is prohibited by privacy laws from releasing or discussing the medical records of any employee."

Collierville Schools Superintendent John Aitken confirmed Durham does conduct physicals and health screenings on its municipal school bus drivers.

"We've confirmed those have happened on all of our drivers," said Aitken, whose district oversees bus transportation for all six of the county's municipal districts. "That's one assurance we got just out of our weekly meeting."

Hopson is not related to Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson. Ironically, WMC Action News 5 asked Hopson about a possible connection in Thursday's news conference with SCS leaders and Durham's executives, since we found her name on Durham's roster.

In Thursday's news conference, Durham's executives announced a 3-point plan to re-run background checks on all 1,000 of its SCS employees, increase the frequency of random drug and alcohol tests and introduce a revamped driver recruitment plan by December. The plan is a response to an ongoing WMC Action News 5 investigation, in which we exposed Durham drivers who harbored felony histories and lengthy motor vehicle violations.

Our investigation also revealed Durham drivers were involved in 251 accidents over the three years they have served Memphis and Shelby County. Its drivers were at fault in nearly half of those accidents, according to SCS's data.

That data nearly cost Durham its 4-year, $103 million contract with SCS.

The six municipal districts hold a 4-year, $33 million contract with the transportation company. Aitken said he expects Durham to offer the same package of safety enhancements to the municipal districts' contract in a meeting tentatively scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 13.

"I think we will talk about that," Aitken said. "We got a commitment on the re-running of the background checks already, but I think based on yesterday...we will probably firm those up in the meeting next week."

Aitken conceded if Durham does not offer the municipal districts their own safety enhancement plan, they are already crunching the numbers on what it would cost to take over their bus operations.

For an interactive look at the bus incidents WMC Action News 5 has tracked since the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, click here.

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