New Brunswick

School bus driver captured on video talking on cellphone while driving

The father of a student at École L'Odyssée in Moncton is upset with the response of school officials after he reported a bus driver for answering his cellphone while driving.

Father who reported incident to École L'Odyssée upset by lack of urgency in response, lack of transparency

Alain Chartrand said he wants to know what disciplinary action the school district takes against the bus driver. (Radio-Canada)

The father of a student at École L'Odyssée in Moncton is upset with the response of school officials after he reported a bus driver for answering his cellphone while driving.

Alain Chartrand says he was shocked when his son showed him a video he recorded April 6 on the school bus he takes to and from their Riverview home.

The video is blurry and lasts only seconds, but it clearly shows the driver with his cellphone in hand while the vehicle was moving with passengers on board.

I didn't sense any kind of urgency on their part [or] gravity … It almost felt like I was bothering them.- Alain Chartrand, father

Handheld cellphone use while driving has been banned in New Brunswick for all motorists since 2011.

"I don't understand that when you make a living driving and having the custody of children behind you that it would be OK to talk on the phone," said Chartrand.

"So my first reaction was shock, but the second reaction was concern for the security of the kids and wondering if it's a common thing that happens with bus drivers."

School bus drivers are only supposed to use their cellphones in an emergency and only when hands-free. (CBC )

He sent an email with the video attached to a teacher at the francophone high school that night, requesting it be forwarded to management. A few days later, he received an emailed response from the principal.

"The answer was to the effect, 'I'm taking care of it, thank you.' That was it," Chartrand told CBC News on Tuesday.

"I didn't sense any kind of urgency on their part [or] gravity. There was no, 'We're so sorry to hear about this. We have strong policies on this and please be sure that we'll follow up.'

"It almost felt like I was bothering them."

School district investigating

The Francophone South School District is "taking the matter very seriously" and conducting an ongoing internal investigation, said spokesman Steve Lapierre.

"Safety is our number one priority," Lapierre said in an emailed statement to CBC News.

Bus drivers are equipped with cellphones, which they can use in case of an emergency but only using hands-free technology, according to district officials.

The district will "take the appropriate measures, if need be, following the investigation," said Lapierre.

"That being said, we do not make any public comments on matters involving our employees or students, as they have the right to their privacy."

Calls for transparency

Chartrand thinks there should be more transparency when it comes to student safety.

"It's not a matter of absenteeism for one of their teachers, or one of the janitors not doing their job properly. That's internal management and I understand that. But this is something that involves the security of our children," he said.

"I'm not looking for blood, I'm not looking for suspension or anything like that, but I think when it involves the security of my child, I think I'm entitled to know what action has been taken."

The president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees New Brunswick said the district and provincial government should do more to better equip school buses.

"Bus drivers, as in other trades, have the exception of being able to speak on radios," said Daniel Légère. "We support this and we encourage the district and government to move forward in this type of installation."

With files from Radio-Canada