MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Durham School Services bus driver fired for smoking pot inside his bus while on duty also carries a felony record, according to court documents.
The company and Shelby County Schools confirmed Sunday they fired 29-year-old Marsai Catron, of Orange Mound, after he was cited with misdemeanor marijuana possession.
What neither acknowledged is Catron also pleaded guilty last December to a 2009 aggravated assault charge. A judge suspended his three-month sentence and ordered Catron on probation.
Police also charged Catron with driving on a suspended license seven months before pleading to the assault charge. The suspended license charge was never prosecuted, according to court records.
"The Durham driver who was arrested for drug charges on Saturday has been fired," SCS Communications wrote in an e-mail. "This incident is a serious violation of the strict employment guidelines that are enforced as part of our contract with Durham School Services. The District is still investigating the incident."
No one answered the door at Catron's listed address, 1294 Lapaloma St.
SCS confirmed Catron had transported students from American Way Middle to Bellevue Middle for a basketball jamboree tournament Saturday. According to the police report, he was smoking marijuana inside the bus while waiting on the tournament to finish.
The incident happened just two days after WMC Action News 5 broadcast its investigation of Durham School Services. We petitioned for the personal information of each of its drivers in service of SCS and Shelby County's six municipal districts after drivers wrecked 11 buses in two months -- six before Oct. 1. Of the drivers in those accidents, three were held at fault. Two of them had criminal histories. One was driving without a driver's license or school bus credentials.
Even the bus drivers' union boss railed against Durham and SCS for a lack of oversight and transparency concerning the drivers' backgrounds.
"I'm concerned about the Durham screening process as it relates to who is selected to drive our children," said SCS board member Miska Clay Bibbs, whose district includes American Way Middle. "I believe that the process needs to be re-examined so that no one falls through the cracks. Our children are precious to us and need to be treated as such."
"They're going to have to crack down on them because it's getting serious," said mom Melissa Thomas, whose two boys are future American Way Middle students. "I need my children. I want them to live. (SCS) needs to make sure those criminal background checks are being done."
We asked Molly Hart, Durham School Services' spokesperson how Catron was hired with a felony history. She would not acknowledge the question in her e-mail response.
"The driver's actions were unacceptable and immediate action was taken," Hart said. "I can confirm that the driver is no longer employed by our company."
Concerning Durham's recent controversies, SCS board member Scott McCormick said Durham's driver performance is what's "unacceptable," and it may jeopardize the company's $103 million contract with the school district.
"I am not sure how our contract reads, but we, as a board, need to review the policies and procedures of our vendor's hiring practices," McCormick said in an e-mail. "My hope is that this will go before the appropriate committee and placed on the November working meeting's agenda."