Cloquet School Board responds to school bus complaintsSchool bus transportation issues raised recently by the Local Indian Education Committee led Cloquet School Board members to approve a resolution Monday in response.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
School bus transportation issues raised recently by the Local Indian Education Committee led Cloquet School Board members to approve a resolution Monday in response.
Although the resolution states that the board does not agree with the document presented by the LIEC regarding bus routes, conditions of those routes and buses, or the discipline on those routes, it does recognize “very real concerns expressed by the LIEC parents.”
To that end, the board authorized Cloquet School Board Superintendent Ken Scarbrough to take steps to address those concerns and work to make transportation more standardized in the district. The steps include setting firm bus rules and posting them for each bus route, finalizing an informational brochure, working with Cloquet Transit to enforce rules without “heightened emotions,” installing digital surveillance cameras on buses – at least two per year, working with Cloquet Transit to review the number of students assigned to the routes and addressing bus upkeep. Finally, Scarbrough plans to visit with a member or members of LIEC to discuss their concerns and appropriate responses to those concerns.
“The public needs to know that we are putting together a brochure to mail to families and give to teachers to promote a safe, healthy, clean respectful transportation system – not that we’re in disarray now – but to clarify [the system],” Scarbrough said.
On Wednesday, Scarbrough met with employees at Cloquet Transit to review the new brochure and discuss the purchase of surveillance cameras. He said he also plans to set a time in the near future to address the specifics of the LIEC complaints.
Melanie Strom, the LIEC representative who attends board meeetings, brought the issue to light last fall when she presented a resolution of non-concurrence from the LIEC, which alleged that transportation company personnel had inappropriately touched students (non-sexually) and inappropriately communicated with them.
The inappropriate touching allegation stems from a situation where a driver reportedly put a hand on a student’s shoulder to redirect him, Scarbrough said.
The LIEC document also reported seating problems stemming from too many students on the bus, and that the buses with the majority of American Indian students were the worst kept. A high number of bus violations given to American Indian students was also cited in the document.
The statements were not supported by fact, according to the school board document, and all disciplinary referrals are documented and referred to the student's principal prior to school district action. Also, due to data privacy, some things said and done by students on buses cannot be shared with the public, Scarbrough said.
School board members approved the resolution, with the exception of Stephanie Hammit, who said she was glad the board and Scarbrough were addressing the issues but felt she would be dismissing the concerns of the LIEC if she voted affirmatively.
In other business, board members elected officers for the year. They kept the status quo with Gary Huard as chairman, Stephanie Hammit as clerk and Duane Buytaert as treasurer. Approving their pay at the same rate as last year, $160 per month and $.55 per mile based on the current IRS rate, was sanctioned as well, with only board member Ron Gittings voting against the measure.
“I don’t think we should get paid – that’s my opinion,” Gittings told board members.