02/27/13 — District defends driver checks

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District defends driver checks

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 27, 2013 1:46 PM

Background checks for bus drivers in Wayne County Public Schools came under scrutiny this week on the heels of a TV news report that alleged some of the district's drivers had criminal records.

But school officials likened the report to an ambush, calling it "a gross misrepresentation of the truth."

Dr. Marvin McCoy, assistant superintendent for human resource services, defended the district's hiring practices and use of a reputable company, Background Investigation Bureau in Charlotte, which conducts the check.

While no drivers were found to be listed on the sex offender registry, the TV report turned up several charges ranging from breaking and entering to assault with a deadly weapon.

McCoy refuted the findings, saying he was confident that the matter would be cleared up and the "truth will prevail."

He maintained there were several discrepancies in the report and that the district was not given an opportunity to conduct its own investigation and respond before it aired.

"We have already started the process and found so many holes in what was there," he said Tuesday night. "Number One, we have nothing to hide. If you found something, I applaud it and thank you for sharing it with us. If there's someone that shouldn't be driving, we'll do what we have to do."

McCoy said the portrayal was riddled with mistakes.

"One of the bus drivers, when (the TV reporter) showed what they found, I told her I could not verify whether or not these were our employees and of course, if they had showed that to us earlier, we could have had all of the information on our folks," he said. "I called one of the bus drivers based on the mug shot -- immediately I had conflicting information -- her face in the photo did not match, so it was a clear case of error on (the reporter) and NBC 17 team's fault.

"I called that bus driver. She said this lady had been getting (her) in trouble from New Jersey to North Carolina because she was using her name, had gotten in trouble for shoplifting and the other charges that were there and of course, she had proven that she wasn't (that person)."

Had the TV station done a more thorough investigation, checking photos and fingerprints and other aspects, it would have been readily apparent that the information did not line up, McCoy said.

"I'm going further," McCoy said. "My folks, they're doing a cross check and verification."

School districts, and companies such as the one Wayne County uses, go through a more strenuous process than what was done by the Raleigh TV station, he noted.

"The report by NBC 17 was done in haste and in error, without corroboration and verification," he said. "Because (the reporter) did it in error, and went just to the Department of Corrections website, that's just one of the databases that our folks use to run the system of checks and balances."

A singular source is not sufficient, he said, especially when identity theft is prevalent, or there is more than one person with the same name.

But McCoy said the school system will do due diligence in defending itself.

"When we finish double- and triple-checking our stuff, we're going to show her boss where the error was and where there was gross misrepresentation of the truth," he said. "We want the truth in journalism. We want the truth out there that the system does work and just the average person doing a Google search for background will not net a perfect result."

Ken Derksen, director of communication services for the district, said the school system takes such matters seriously, which is why it agreed to participate in the interview.

"They called, requesting the names of our bus drivers -- from other counties as well, we weren't the only ones," he said. "They went through the process trying to confirm data. They let us know before the interview what they thought they may have found.

"I think it's important to note that they did that without confirming with us whether the data was accurate."

At the outset, Derksen said he provided the TV station with a list of 80 full-time drivers currently employed in the county. Of those, he noted the TV report said that "four, maybe five" had criminal records.

Derksen said the district does everything possible to ensure safety of its students, whether in the classroom or en route.

He said that each and every allegation would be addressed and the findings will be made public.

"We want to assure (everyone) that we have people behind the wheel who are safe drivers, and are going to be safe representatives to get our children to and from school safely."