System Driver check
NBC 5 Investigates has learned a Dallas County Schools bus driver stopped for speeding in a school bus, while driving through a school zone, was arrested on outstanding warrants, raising new concerns about who's behind the wheel at DCS, the school bus agency that serves 11 school districts in North Texas.
On the afternoon of Nov. 4, DCS bus driver Archie Charles Murphy II was on his way to pick up students in White Settlement. But instead of driving the kids home that day, police ended up driving him away in handcuffs after an officer found Murphy had seven outstanding arrest warrants for failing to pay prior traffic tickets.
It's an incident that's exposed major failures in the system DCS has been using to background check the people driving kids.
The White Settlement City Marshal's Office patrols school zones most afternoons. But until this month they had never caught a school zone speeder driving a big yellow bus.
Who Drives Your Child's School Bus? NBC 5 Investigates has learned a Dallas County Schools bus driver stopped for speeding in a school bus, while driving through a school zone, was arrested on outstanding warrants. (Published Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016)
"A school bus just kind of blew through the intersections, obviously going too fast, " said White Settlement City Marshal Jeff James.
James said one of his deputies ran Murphy's license and discovered the outstanding warrants.
"The driver kept telling him, you know, 'I gotta go pick up the kids. I gotta get the kids, ' and he kept trying to make it an emergency so that he needed to leave, " said James.
The marshals told the bus driver he was going was to jail to take care of those warrants for unpaid tickets.
NBC 5 Investigates spoke to parents in White Settlement who wonder how someone with seven arrest warrants for prior traffic tickets ends up behind the wheel of a school bus.
"They worry about our safety while our kids are at the school. They need to worry about safety on the way to and from school, " Pam Self, a parent in White Settlement.
And the city marshal shares those concerns.
"I wouldn't have thought he was driving a school bus, " said James.
In a statement to NBC 5 Investigates, Dallas County Schools said the driver has been fired. The DCS statement says, "This was a definitive example of multiple system failures both internal and external."
The DCS statement says, "We run (driver record) checks twice a year, however warrants do not show up on Texas DPS Motor Vehicle Reports…We are already looking at ways to resolve this reporting issue and are considering hiring a private company to review driver files more frequently because the current system with DPS is insufficient."
The background check problems come at a time when DCS is already under scrutiny for failing to supervise drivers.
An NBC 5 investigation uncovered videos that captured hundreds of drivers running red lights. DCS quietly paid the tickets and did not discipline the drivers until NBC 5 Investigates questioned why.
Monday night, NBC 5 Investigates reported crashes involving DCS buses reported to the state doubled in just one year.
NBC 5 Investigates sent messages Tuesday to Murphy, the school bus driver who was arrested in the traffic stop, but we were unable to reach him.
Online court records in Arlington where the tickets originated, indicate that Murphy has been released from jail and those unpaid ticket cases have now been closed.
In a statement Tuesday from the White Settlement Independent School District, Superintendent Frank Molinar said, "Student safety is a top priority in White Settlement ISD, and we take these matters very seriously."
"WSISD will continue to work with our Dallas County Schools employees to ensure that procedures, policies and safety measures are always implemented, " Molinar said. "All team members will continue to be accountable for student safety."
That, along with the news of a bus driver's arrest, is unsettling parents in one North Texas suburb where families count on DCS to care for their kids.
"It makes it a little scary, you know. The officer who made the stop is a parent, too, and he has kids in the school district, and it makes you feel like I just want to make sure my kids are OK, " said Marshal James.
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