PTA top mom says fire Durham after driver hit-and-run

PTA top mom says fire Durham after driver hit-and-run

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Terri Harris is done with Durham School Services.

The president of the Shelby County Council PTA said Monday that Shelby County Schools and the six municipal districts should fire Durham as their school bus contractor after Friday's hit-and-run crash that got 28-year-old Durham bus driver Jason Valentine fired.

According to the Memphis Police Department accident report Friday, Jan. 30, Valentine left the scene of an accident at Almo Ave. and Knightway Rd. in Parkway Village. According to the report, a driver of another vehicle said Valentine was "...driving (his Durham bus) recklessly...," with children out in the neighborhood.

When that driver tried to slow Valentine down, Valentine "...cursed him...drove off and struck his passenger door."  The driver's passenger "...was pinned to the passenger door by the bus as it passed." He was treated at the hospital with non-critical injuries, according to the report.

Valentine declined an on-camera interview, but in a phone interview, he said he didn't realize he had made contact with the driver's vehicle, and if he did, it wasn't his fault. "They hit


. I want y'all to understand that," Valentine said. "This man hit



Durham spokesperson Molly Hart confirmed the company fired Valentine. He has yet to be charged in connection with the accident.

"The driver in question was hired in July 2014," Hart said of Valentine, who carries no criminal or motor vehicle record history according to court records. "Our bus drivers are required to immediately report all accidents/incidents when it's safe to do so and remain on the scene until further instructed; this driver did not, and therefore, is no longer an employee of Durham School Services."

The hit-and-run was the last straw for Harris. "If I were on the school board, I would have to say, 'Yes' (to terminating Durham's contract)," she said in a phone interview. "It has occurred repeatedly this school year, and I think it's time the school board made a decision on what they are going to do."

Harris is referring to the more than 40 incidents or accidents Durham bus drivers have had a part in since the school year started. They include:


He also carried a violent felony record that was missed by Durham's background checks.

* A Durham driver fired after a crash in which he was driving under a suspended license for nearly $900 in unpaid personal traffic fines.



SCS Board Member Miska Clay Bibbs, whose constituents include the American Way Middle School students who were transported by the pot-smoking driver, said she's confident Durham has implemented its 3-point plan of safety enhancements introduced in November. They include deeper background checks, more frequent drug-screening and better local driver recruitment.

"But I do think if we are having issues regarding our children, we always have to re-evaluate and make sure our children are being treated the way they should be treated," Bibbs said.

SCS Board Chair Teresa Jones, the only board member who has vocally mentioned the consideration of canceling the district's contract with Durham, eventually backed off the idea after cost considerations and after Durham's reassurance of the safety enhancements.

"We are no longer using out-of-state drivers for Shelby County Schools or the municipalities," Hart said. "In addition, we have increased random drug-testing for Shelby County Schools and municipalities drivers."

"If you want to out-source to save money, fine, but if that saving money is harming students, you have to re-evaluate," Harris said.

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