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BUS COMPANY VOWS TO IMPROVE TRAINING, SERVICES

SHARE BUS COMPANY VOWS TO IMPROVE TRAINING, SERVICES

A bus company that transports deaf and blind students to school will improve its driver training and communication with parents immediately. It will also add new routes to shorten the time students are on the bus, according to officials from the company and the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind.

During an amiable 21/2-hour meeting Wednesday night, a bus driver who was fired for taking a television news crew along on her route was also reinstated.Chris Taylor was fired by Tran Spec Busing Inc. last Wednesday after she allowed a news crew along to document complaints that the company ran so few routes that children were on the bus as long as two hours at a time, that the buses were unsafe and some of the children were abused by drivers.

Randy Bennett, president of the Minnesota-based busing company, said Taylor was fired because "what she did with the Channel 4 crew broke her contract. But we also consider her motives, and she was trying to do something good."

Ray Meadows, manager of the bus company's Utah operation, resigned following critical news reports. He has been replaced by Ted Leland, a former driver who has management experience.

Superintendent David L. West presented the results of his weeklong investigation into allegations against the bus company to about 60 parents of students who ride the buses. He said there is "every indication that Tran Spec buses are safe, although some of the seat belts need work." Any bus that a driver suspects is unsafe will be grounded immediately, he said.

Although seat belts are not required on the buses, Bennett said that all buses will have them and they will be inspected before and after routes daily.

Drivers will take bus safety classes. Bennett also said drivers will be required to take a basic sign-language class within four months and pass some type of competency evaluation designed by the schools.

West said routes will be added in the next two weeks to make sure students are not on buses beyond the 75 minutes allowed by law.

If buses are late, parents will be notified and Tran Spec and the schools will keep a log of complaints, with a copy for the parents to ensure follow-through.

Parents were told they share responsibility for some of the solutions. "Parents have a part in reinforcing the conduct of your children," Bennett said. "School buses are the safest transportation in the country. You need to help prepare them for that experience."

Discipline on the buses has been a problem, with complaints that some of the children wander freely on the buses and even take off their clothes. West said that schools are trying to get funding to provide aides to ride on the buses. Unfortunately, West said, aides are not in the budget and the cost could be as high as $300,000 a year.

A dozen parents, in the meantime, have volunteered to ride along on some of the routes once a week.

Corey Haun, a father whose daughter was injured twice when she fell out of her car seat, said that representatives from the Legal Center for the Handicapped told him that aides are required by Utah Code.