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School corporation at center of deadly bus stop crash denies public access to records

NOW: School corporation at center of deadly bus stop crash denies public access to records

AKRON, Ind – Three weeks after a woman in a truck hit and killed 3 children at a bus stop in Fulton County, the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation is responding to public records requests made by our investigative team. Today, the superintendent sent a blanket denial to our request for records related to issues brought up at school board meetings. The denial comes 20 days after the request was made.

ABC57 sifted through more than a decade of School Board Minutes to see if there were ever any concerns about bus routes or safety. During the search, we found two documented events that we believe needs more context. Below is the request in its entirety:

Good Morning,

I have a couple of questions and requests in regard to minutes from the TVSC and school corporation policy.

First, in the Minutes from September 15, 2008, the following is mentioned:

  • “During Spotlight on Valley, Mr. Boggs recognized the following groups and individuals:
  • Tippecanoe Valley High School seniors for their outstanding performance in ISTEP scores.
  • Tippecanoe Valley Educators for all their contribution to this academic improvement.
  • Mr. Kirk Doehrmann, Tippecanoe Valley High School Principal, for his efforts to focus on improvement of ISTEP scores.
  • Transportation staff, Lyle Butt and Colvin Cox for their tasks of preparing school buses for inspection during the summer months.
  • Tippecanoe Valley Bus Drivers for consciously looking for ways to reduce mileages on their routes and reduce spending without compromising student safety. And for reducing the number of shuttle buses to travel to the elementary buildings for a saving of over $15,000 a school year.”

Can you please elaborate on what changes were made in regards to the highlighted area? Were changes made to the bus stop on SR25 where the recent accident occurred? If so, what were the changes? I would like to see any and all district documents related to the highlighted area above.

Second, in the minutes from July 9th, 2007, the following is mentioned:

“During items from visitors, Chris Moorehouse addressed the Board regarding concerns from a group of parents who had incoming fourth grade students at Mentone Elementary. Mrs. Moorehouse and the group addressed the following issues:

Potential for overcrowding in the upcoming school year in grade 4

Possibility of deficiencies in learning due to the overcrowding in grade 4

Mentone having 28-30 students in grade 4; Akron having under that amount in grade 4 and the Indiana state average indicated as 17:1 student to teacher ratio on the DOE website.

Lack of instructional assistant in grade 4

Indicated their observation of reductions in program to exhilarate higher end achievers

Concerns regarding bussing to the middle school and seat placements of students on buses

Image of School Board putting more emphasis on football coaches and athletics than academics

due to six assistant football coaches and building of new concession stand”

In response, the following was said:

The Board encourages the parents with bussing issues to contact the bus driver and then Mr. Boggs with any further problems.

Can you please describe what those bussing concerns were? What changes were made, if any? And please provide a comprehensive list of all complaints about the bus stop on SR 25 where the accident occurred. If there are emails about any bussing concerns, please provide them. I would like to have all documents at the school district dealing with bussing concerns. I am also requesting any and all district documents related to the highlighted area above.

Under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act § 5-14-3-1 et seq., I am requesting an opportunity to inspect or obtain copies of the public records described above.

The requested information is in the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public’s understanding of safety and student transportation. As a member of the media, it is my duty to provide this information to the public. This information is not being sought for commercial purposes.

The Indiana Access to Public Records Act requires a response time within seven business days. If access to the records I am requesting will take longer than seven days, please contact me with information about when I might expect copies or the ability to inspect the requested records.

If you deny any or all of this request, please cite each specific exemption you feel justifies the refusal to release the information and notify me of the appeal procedures available to me under the law.

Thank you for the help,

Clifton French
Investigative Reporter
ABC57 News
Cell: (574) 440-4433
Address:

53550 Generations Drive
South Bend, Indiana 46635

Superintendent Blaine Conley responded this afternoon with the following email:

Mr. French –

Thank you for your patience as the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation community copes with this terrible tragedy. In response to the tragedy, I am establishing a transportation safety review committee which will examine all of our bus stop locations to ensure our children are transported safely. I am pleased both Sheriff Sailors and Sheriff Goshert will co-chair this committee with me.

With regards to your request for records under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act, I have consulted with our legal counsel and we must deny the request because it is not reasonably particular.

Regards,

Superintendent Conley

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