Local school districts expressed shock and disappointment Wednesday, after an NBC 5 investigation revealed hundreds of school bus drivers racked up tickets for running red lights and even around other school buses' stop arms.
Records and videos obtained by NBC 5 Investigates showed more than 480 traffic violations since 2014 involving drivers at Dallas County Schools, the busing operation responsible for transporting students at the Dallas Independent School District and about a dozen other area school districts.
Richardson ISD officials released a statement Wednesday calling the videos in the NBC 5 reports, "troubling and unacceptable." The statement said, "Richardson ISD recognizes Dallas County Schools action in response, and we look forward to learning more about the systemic steps that will be taken by Dallas County Schools to address this issue."
After NBC 5 Investigates brought the issue to the attention of Dallas County Schools, officials said Tuesday they would fire 13 drivers and suspend 229 drivers without pay for five days or more.
The NBC 5 investigation revealed that since Jan. 1, 2014, no drivers were disciplined for committing red-light running violations in school buses, and Dallas County Schools simply paid the tickets for them.
When asked why no one at the agency was holding drivers accountable, Dallas County Schools board president Larry Duncan said there was no excuse on multiple levels.
"I'm furious, and that's not permittable," Duncan said. "We will be ruthless in enforcing discipline on these type of violations."
When a bus is ticketed for running a red light, the agency's policy said managers are supposed to "determine who the driver was at the time of the violation" and "the fine will be deducted from the employee's paycheck."
It also said drivers should be suspended without pay for first and second offenses and fired for the third.
But the investigation found none of that happened.
Duncan said two high-level managers have been demoted now for failing to follow district policy and that bus drivers will be forced to repay a total of about $80,000 in fines.
NBC 5 Investigates uncovered the story of school bus drivers whizzing through traffic, running red lights over and over throughout the county, buried in the financial records of Dallas County Schools.
This summer, NBC 5 Investigates sifted through the agency's check registers and found checks written for tens of thousands of dollars to pay for what the district labeled "DPS violations."
To find out what that meant, NBC 5 Investigates filed a records request asking for more detailed records. The agency sent back 1,100 pages of records that contained more than 480 traffic citations issued to Dallas County Schools and checks that paid for $80,000 in tickets with district funds.
Dallas ISD is the largest district Dallas County Schools serves.
NBC 5 Investigates showed Dallas ISD school board trustee Dan Micciche some of the videos showing bus drivers running red lights and records detailing the more than 400 tickets.
Micciche said the high number of tickets was shocking and a big problem that needs to be corrected.
He was stunned to hear the tickets even included bus drivers running past other school buses while their stop arm was extended.
"The drivers need to follow the traffic laws, especially when they are driving school buses," said Micciche. "It's totally unacceptable."
The stop arm tickets are even more surprising when you consider the bus company involved.
Dallas County Schools has spent millions of dollars installing stop arm cameras on buses in the area's most aggressive program aimed at ticketing other drivers.
Now, their own bus drivers have been caught doing the same thing.
Duncan said when the bus arm camera program began he would have never guessed the district's own drivers would be caught violating.
Just Wednesday, Dallas County Schools sent a copy of the new policy it plans to put in place in the next two weeks. It said going forward any driver running past another school bus stop arm will be fired immediately.