According to an investigation from the Montgomery County Office of the Inspector General, citations were given to over 1,000 bus drivers in the Maryland school district during an eight-year period.
The watchdog’s investigation found that in most cases, Montgomery County Public School employees reimbursed the district for traffic violation citations but recommended the district establish written traffic violation policies.
The investigation found that district employees received 1,622 tickets from July 1, 2015, to January 2023; bus drivers made up 1,007 of those citations.
The report found that in many cases, bus drivers were ticketed for passing another bus with a stop arm camera used to ticket drivers passing a bus that is picking up or dropping off school children.
“Our analysis showed that school buses received approximately 85% of school bus stop arm violations issued to MCPS vehicles in our scope period,” the report said. “ We viewed recordings associated with 17 randomly selected school bus stop arm citations, and although we did not observe drivers acting recklessly, we did witness them passing stopped school buses who had deployed stop arms.”
“Given the level of training bus drivers receive, the number of citations is alarming,” the report continued.
The investigation found that there were a limited number of cases where district employees did not reimburse the Montgomery County Public Schools Department of Transportation such as instances where a driver leaves before the district was notified of the citation or if the Department of Transportation director found that the employee was not at fault.
Only two of the district’s departments maintained an “internal written policy defining procedures for addressing traffic citations and stating that offending drivers were responsible for paying citations.”
The report found that because the Department of Transportation could not force other departments to reimburse it for violations, there are 37 outstanding citations with an outstanding amount of $2,269.90 owed by other departments.
“We noted MCPS lacks written policies or procedures governing the management of citations throughout the agency,” the report found. “In some instances, this absence of formal policy caused processing errors, resulted in unpaid reimbursements by employees, and contributed to duplicate payments.”
The district responded to the investigation’s findings, arguing that bus drivers follow the rules of the road and that the district deals with violations.
“The training and development of bus drivers is strictly adhered to according to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration and the Maryland State Department of Education rules and regulations,” said Brian Hull, chief operating officer of the district. “MCPS is proud of the school bus operators who transport our students each day. Violations of driving laws and expectations are addressed through the Staff Code of Conduct progressive discipline process.”
But the Office of the Inspector General said in its response that the district failed to address the underlying issue of the citations and that driver training was outside of the investigation’s scope.
“The response also does not address the OlG’s recommendation that MCPS should evaluate the underlying causes for citations received by employees and take steps to remediate contributing factors,” the Inspector General’s office said.