12-to-15 passenger vans banned by DISD following News 8 investigation

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on September 27, 2013 at 6:43 PM

Updated Saturday, Sep 28 at 12:20 AM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

DALLAS -- The passenger vans being used to transport hundreds of DISD students are being pulled off the streets beginning Monday.

The action follows a News 8 investigation which exposed the vans as both dangerous and illegal for public school transportation in Texas.

It was supposed to be the answer to costly, long-distance school bus rides at DISD. Dallas County Schools, which runs the bus service for DISD, began hiring private vendors driving private cars, vans, and SUVs to transport about 1,800 students.

Many of those students, as of Friday, were being transported in 12-passenger-style shuttle vans. But News 8 discovered, and the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Association of School Boards agree, that "School Districts are not allowed to use 12- or 15-passenger vans to transport students on route to and from school."

Dallas Attorney Todd Tracy has extensive knowledge of the dangers associated with passenger vans, and their potential for rollovers and roof crush-in accidents.

"Not only is it a violation of law, I can't imagine the Dallas Independent School District allowing such conduct to take place because they are jeopardizing and placing our children at risk,” he said.

"I wouldn't even transport equipment in these vans," Tracy added. "They need to use school buses. They need to use regular passenger vehicles."

The dangers of the passenger van vulnerabilities are so prominent, the federal government has banned the sale of these vans to public schools.

After our report, DISD officials, who say they were assured the vans were legal and safe by Dallas County Schools, reversed their position Friday.

“Any vans that appear to be 12-to-15 passenger vans will be taken off the road effective Monday,” said DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander. “We are continuing to learn more but safety, for us, is number one as we continue to hold Dallas County Schools accountable for that safety."

But late Friday, DISD's transportation service provider, Dallas County Schools refused to back down, issuing this statement:

"The third-party transportation program serving DISD is in compliance with state law. Dallas County Schools provides quality products and services to school districts. Our primary concern is the safety of our students."

Dallas County Schools officials declined to answer further questions about the volumes of warnings and prohibitions on the passenger vans they insist are legal and safe.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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