Fired after NBC Bay Area Investigation confirmed brake problems with her bus. Tony Kovaleski reports a story that originally aired at 6 p.m. on Nov. 8, 2012.
After six years of driving special needs children in the East Bay, Durham School Services fired a Hayward bus driver after she raised concerns about mechanical problems with her bus.
“This is wrong and (they) are putting those children in unsafe equipment,” former school bus driver Lorraine Ramirez told NBC Bay Area.
Ramirez received a letter a few weeks ago from Durham saying she was terminated for “violating company policy." Ramirez believes she was fired because she spoke to the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit in May and raised concerns about mechanical problems with her bus.
“My bus leaks massive, and the brakes are going out right now and every time I take it in for maintenance they tell me we don’t have parts,” Ramirez previously told NBC Bay Area.
Two days after our investigation, Durham took Ramirez’s bus off the road and spent more than 18 hours fixing problems such as replacing brake pads that were “worn to the limit.”
We showed Ramirez the work order for her bus.
“It says I was telling the truth the whole entire time and that Durham lied and Durham wanted me to just shut up and be quiet about it,” Ramirez said. “Well no, I couldn’t, because I was transporting those special needs children.”
Despite losing her job, Ramirez maintains that she does not regret her decision to speak out. However, her frustrations were amplified when she learned that the California Highway Patrol did not conduct an investigation after she and another East Bay bus driver exposed critical maintenance problems at Durham facilities.
“They let us down big time,” Ramirez said.
Still, Ramirez says she wants nothing more than to go back to work and see her kids again.
“They miss me, they call me Ms. Lorraine, some of them call me Mama Lorriane.”
Durham has ignored our repeated phone calls and emails, however in a previous statement the company told NBC Bay Area:
"Our school bus drivers are some of the most well-trained drivers on the road. We are proud of our team of drivers and are committed to providing them the tools and training necessary to succeed. . . All Durham School Services' California operations have passed the most recent California Highway Patrol inspections. Our focus on safety, customers, people and the communities we serve ensures we meet and exceed our customers' expectations in providing safe, reliable transportation for their students."
After our investigation in May, Ramirez told us that she was called into the office and told by her supervisors that if she talks the NBC Bay Area again she would be fired. She did not talk to us again, that is, until after she was fired.