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DUIs Don't Disqualify School Bus Drivers in Vermont

A FOX 44 investigation looked into Vermont state law and bus company policies regarding bus drivers and DUI's.
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. - Former school bus driver Carl Lupton faces charges of driving South Royalton School students while under the influence of alcohol.

Lupton was an employee of Butler's Bus Service when he was arrested March 24th. The company provides drivers and buses to school districts across Vermont.

Butler’s fired Lupton after his DUI charge. But it turns out this is not Lupton's first DUI. Prior to being hired by Butler's in September, records show Lupton had already been arrested four times for DUI. He was convicted once, in 2006.

“Do you think being a bus operator is the best position for someone who has a checkered history with driving and alcohol?” reporter David Hodges asked.

“Well it won't be an option for me anymore. That’s for sure,” Lupton said.

But why was it an option for him in the first place?

We looked to state statute for answers. According to Vermont law school districts and private bus companies have to do a criminal background check and three year driving record check on any person applying to be a school bus driver.

A DUI, criminal conviction, or other serious traffic violation only disqualifies a driver if it happened in the past two years.

But some of the private companies have stricter laws when it comes to DUIs. First Student Inc. policies say a person can't be a driver if their background includes a DUI in the past 15 years. Student Transportation of America’s policy rules out anybody who’s ever had a DUI. But Butler's policy at the time of Lupton’s DUI was the same as state law, only two years.

“Our children need to be protected. We’re their advocates and it's very important that we watch out for their safety,” mother Nicole Potter said.

Potter has three kids and one on the way. Her son rides the bus to Ottauquechee Elementary School. The Hartford school district has its own buses now but is considering contracting out with one of two companies. Butler's is one of them.

“They knew that there was one prior arrest and conviction for DUI it's not like they weren't aware,” Potter said referring to Lupton.

“They still employed him and tried to give him a second chance and put our children at risk.”

“What's your number one mission when it comes to transporting students?” reporter David Hodges asked Butler’s Bus Service Vice President Emo Chynoweth.

“Transporting students safely,” Chynoweth said.

Chynoweth says his policies are about to change. We asked him about former driver Carl Lupton.

Hodges: “Why would you hire him in the first place?”

Chynoweth: “He met all the criteria for a school bus driver. He passed the state test, the state gave him his test and you know in hindsight you know we are stiffening up our hiring policy and if he were to come in today he would not be hired.”

Chynoweth: “Our new policy will be not to hire anybody with a DUI.”

Hodges: “Why not have that from the start?”

Chynoweth: “I agree with you. We should have and we didn't. But going forward that will be our new policy.”

Hodges: “Now are there any drivers who work for Butler's right now if you do change it to this policy will no longer be allowed to work for butler's?”

Chynoweth: “Once the policy is written we will go through and review every driver file that we have and make sure that all the current drivers that we have fall under the new policy.”

Hodges: “So if they do have a DUI conviction in their past they would no longer be allowed to work for Butler's?”

Chynoweth: “Correct.”

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