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Get Answers On Bus Issue

How many times have area residents been given the same brushoff when they express concerns about public schools? You know the line: Can’t comment on that. It’s a personnel matter.

Often, it also is a matter of the wellbeing of our children. It is not just “a personnel matter.”

It happened again this week, during a Brooke County Board of Education meeting. Among controversial matters discussed was safety on school buses.

During the meeting, parent Scott Adams, who also happens to be a former West Virginia State Police trooper, asked about a picture that was posted on social media. It showed a scene allegedly from the district’s bus No. 89, in which children were sitting in the center aisle.

“I know from my many years as a trooper what can happen when there is an accident and passengers are not seated correctly,” Adams observed. He added that he has notified the State Police about the situation, and he asked the board to suspend bus operations until the problem is resolved.

School Superintendent Toni Shute told Adams she had not been aware of the problem until that day. She said she had offered to allow a State Police representative to view school bus security tapes with her.

“If there is a violation, it will be handled immediately,” Shute told those at the meeting.

School system Transportation Director Ron Staffileno likewise said he “was not aware of the situation” for a time. An investigation was conducted, he added.

Then he hit the old, familiar refrain: “This is now a personnel matter. That’s all I can say about it.”

Nonsense. Parents — especially those whose children are transported on school buses — have every right to know what happened, why it happened and precisely what the district is doing to keep it from occurring again.

To his credit, Staffileno was a bit more forthcoming the next day, during a telephone conversation with a reporter. He said a review of 20 days of videotapes from Bus 89 indicated “there was not an issue on any of those days.”

And, he has said, there can be challenges regarding bus capacities when children who do not ordinarily ride a particular bus decide to do so.

During the next board meeting, scheduled for Nov. 26, Shute or Staffileno should provide a full report regarding the situation. If it was a one-time problem that steps have been taken to prevent in the future, they should say so. If the bus driver made a mistake that could have been avoided, they should say that. If poor planning of bus routes was to blame, that, too, should be said.

Whatever the answer, Brooke County parents deserve to hear it. “Personnel matter” is no excuse when the safety and health of our children is involved.

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