Iowa School Buses Flagged for Safety Issues

December 30, 2014

The number of Iowa school buses flagged for repeated safety citations has nearly doubled since 2012, according to data compiled by an Iowa newspaper.

Nearly 22,000 bus inspection citations have been issued since June 2012, The Des Moines Register reported. At least 193 buses in 96 school districts were cited for repeat safety citations. A review in June 2012 showed there were at least 99 school buses in 67 districts with repeat safety citations.

The latest issues include unsafe tires, inoperable warning signals or strobe lights, missing or faulty chassis fasteners, broken seat frames and dysfunctional wheel bearings.

Most affected school districts have notified state officials that the buses were repaired before they were returned to service, according to the newspaper. But the state’s education department sent letters to three districts this year over safety concerns, accusing them of falsifying at least 11 repair records.

Jeff Berger, the department’s deputy director, noted in a May 9 letter to Columbus Community School Superintendent Marlene Johnson that an unsafe tire was rotated on a school vehicle instead of being replaced.

“This, in pure and simple terms, amounts to fraud,” Berger wrote.

Phone and email messages left for Johnson were not immediately returned Sunday.

Representatives for some districts with the most repeated citations since Jan. 1, 2011, say some noted issues weren’t necessarily related to the same problem, though it could look that way because of how the citation was recorded.

Berger told the newspaper that school officials almost always promptly fix vehicle deficiencies.

Still, at least one state lawmaker thinks the data adds weight to calls for legislative action, since no inspections are required for school vehicles that carry nine or fewer children. This could affect 1,500 to 1,800 school vehicles in the state, according to the Register.

“I’m not sure why anybody would be OK with this,” said Sen. Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Cedar Falls. “Kids’ safety should be our top priority and this clearly indicates that problems persist.”

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