- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2007

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Columbus schools canceled classes for their 56,000 students last week after a contractor responsible for some school bus routes discovered it had not done complete criminal-background checks on drivers.

First Student Inc. had not submitted any of its bus drivers’ information to the state for checks since August 2004, said Jennifer Brindisi, spokeswoman for Attorney General Marc Dann.

First Student’s decision to ground its Columbus fleet Thursday came two days after Columbus police arrested one of the company’s drivers on a charge of cocaine possession. The driver also had three convictions in the 1980s for driving under the influence.

Company officials said in a statement the firm is assessing its operations statewide to ensure it is following proper procedures.

The district canceled classes because it was unable to find a way to fill the gaps left in bus service, Superintendent Gene Harris said.

“We worked through the night trying to devise a plan to get schools open,” Mr. Harris said.

Nineteen of 22 Catholic schools in the area also were forced to close Thursday, affecting 7,800 pupils.

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