Updated: N.Y. District to Change Policy on Reporting Intoxication, Former Bus Driver Charged

Updated: N.Y. District to Change Policy on Reporting Intoxication, Former Bus Driver Charged

The former Wayne (N.Y.) Central School District bus operator accused of driving drunk was in court Monday and indicted on 10 counts, including multiple DWI charges and aggravated vehicular assault.

Julynn Criscuolo resigned two days after being arrested for causing the Oct. 30 crash that seriously injured another motorist, Candace Aldrich. This occurred a few hours after school officials pulled Criscuolo from her bus route due to suspicions she was inebriated. They took her to get a blood test at a private facility, and results showed she was twice the legal limit.

Attorney Winship Wheatley, a consultant with more than 30 years of experience in student transportation, told STN this is a compelling case that has brought an important question before the industry: Can, or should, an employer disclose the results of a preliminary (or confirmatory) finding of alcohol impairment under USDOT rules?

The school district released a statement admitting that before Criscuolo was removed, she had completed the high school/middle school afternoon bus run. All students were transported home unharmed, officials said.

Reportedly, school officials could still face civil charges even though they followed district policy and procedure at the time.

Now, the school board plans to change that policy and has drafted a resolution that would require school officials to pull any driver suspected of intoxication from bus runs and immediately notify the police. Wayne Superintendent Renee Garrett told STN the draft policy is being returned to the Policy Committee for further conversation. Then it will be scheduled for another first reading on March 6 and possible second reading and adoption on April 10.

Specifically, the proposed policy states that the supervisor will immediately remove the employee from all safety-sensitive functions — including but not limited to driving — and contact the director of transportation, school superintendent, human resources director and assistant superintendent for business to apprise them of the situation.

"If the reasonable suspicion incident involves a bus driver involved in or about to commence a bus run, the Director of Transportation shall immediately dispatch a substitute bus driver to complete the bus run," states the policy. "The supervisor will immediately refer the employee for drug and alcohol testing ... If the preliminary results from the approved testing facility exceed minimum DOT thresholds, the Director of Transportation or their designee will immediately contact law enforcement."

Wheatley pointed to two parts of DOT Rule 49 related to confidentiality and release of information, for guidance: Section 40.323 and 40.331.

With regard to the first counts involving the operation of the bus, he said state evidence may not be relying on the employer-based drug test results, and the state may not even yet have the results from the USDOT test. 

Rather, the state could be using the representation of the employer about the driver’s condition or some science about degradation of results for the test provided under police supervision post 6:25 p.m. (if done), explained Wheatley, presuming there was no additional ingestion during the intervening hours.  

“In other words, an actual sobriety test is not required to prove the bus relevant case, although such would indeed be relatively dispositive. If the state does have the post 2 p.m. civil test and that is their exclusive evidence, then expect objection by defense,” said Wheatley. “Of course, this is all terribly speculative, as we do not know key facts.”

He noted that the report contains an interview with an individual apparently speaking on behalf of the state who suggests no employer criminal culpability given apparent and current known facts by the state.

“What would the police have done had they had the information at 2 p.m.?” he asked. They might have found a way to ‘probable cause’ and ordered a police-sponsored test. They may have said, ‘Thank you for keeping us informed’ …

“Remember that the civil threshold is generally .02, ordinarily less than a criminal DWI or DUI level.”

Do you think the district is at all culpable here? Please join STN’s group on LinkedIn to discuss this case at www.stnonline.com/go/44.

Last modified onThursday, 18 September 2014 15:41
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