Parents Outraged, Flummoxed Over Drunk Bus Driver

State law bars confrontation without compelling evidence, superintendant says

Thursday, Mar 11, 2010  |  Updated 5:24 PM CDT
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Betty Burden

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If a co-worker smelled alcohol on another bus driver's breath, how was that driver able to get behind the wheel with 50 kids on the bus?

That sums up the outrage expressed by parents Thursday morning after learning that one of the drivers for Mount Prospect District 57 was arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence on Tuesday evening.

"It kind of makes you leery. What are they going to do to make sure this won't happen again?" parent Michelle Mellin asked, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Betty Burden, 54, of Mount Prospect, registered a .225 blood alcohol concentration at the police station after failing field sobriety tests, police said.  While the state's legal limit for impairment is .08, there is a zero-tolerance policy for school bus drivers.

State law barred Burden's supervisor from confronting her to ask if she'd been drinking because he himself could not smell alcohol or see that she was intoxicated.

"It's such a delicate decision, to make an accusation of this nature against somebody," said Superintendent Elaine Aumiller. "You have to have compelling evidence that it is there, and it wasn't there for him.

But School board President Joe Leane said  the co-worker's allegation could have been enough to pull Burden from her route.

"We're reviewing that," Leane told the Daily Herald.  "If any corrections need to be made, they'll be made."

Aumiller said Burden had a clean disciplinary history and passed every randon drug test administered. 

Burden has been suspended without pay and may be terminated at a school board hearing next month.

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