by: Gary Horcher Updated:SEATTLE —
For years, Seattle Public Schools kept a secret list of dozens of professional drivers accused of assaulting students and driving recklessly while driving students to school.
On Friday, SPS released the list to KIRO 7 Eyewitness News. The list shows 34 taxi cab and Lincoln Town Car drivers removed from duties driving students to school for allegations of abusive behavior, unsafe driving and even sexual assault. As KIRO 7 first reported in May, SPS does not conduct background checks on taxi drivers hired for driving hundreds of students to school every day.
SPS told KIRO 7, they hire taxi and Town Car drivers to comply with federal laws, which order school districts to transport students with special needs and homeless students who are miles away from traditional bus routes. The McKinney Vento Act requires school districts to provide “feasible” transportation for students in traditional housing, who live up to 50 miles away from their original school. SPS has not revealed the exact cost to taxpayers, but KIRO 7 has leaned the program’s tab is at least $1 million a year.
Tammy Field got a crash course in one of the driver’s aggressive habits when her car was hit by a Lincoln Town Car while students were riding in the back.
"Why wouldn't the district run background checks on the drivers?” she wonders.
Field says she watched the driver drive recklessly, drop off two students and blow through a stop sign after he crashed into the front of her car. “I tried to report it. It was hard to find anyone to talk to about this with the schools,” she said.
KIRO 7 asked SPS officials on the last day of school Friday if their policy will change next year. They would not comment.
Field says cab drivers need to be screened in the name of student safety.
“They drive like taxi drivers,” she said. “You've all been to the airport, you see how they drive, they're aggressive, they're in a hurry, and that's how they're driving with students in the cars."