DCPS to sever ties with chartered school bus company after driver's DWI charge

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Dr. Lewis Ferebee confirmed DCPS is now working to sever ties with Rome Charters LLC, the company that employed a driver who police say crashed a school bus with 44 students onboard while driving drunk.

Parents tell FOX 5 that the kindergarten-aged students involved are from Ben Murch Elementary School in Northwest D.C. 

The school's principal Chris Cebrzynsk said they were on their way back to the District from a trip to Cox Farms in Centerville, Virginia, when the crash took place.

Fairfax County Police arrested 48-year-old Troy Reynolds of Maryland and charged him with driving while intoxicated (DWI). He also faces 9 counts of gross, wanton, or reckless care for child.

FOX 5 is looking into what other companies Reynolds may have worked for. The 48-year-old appears to have a significant traffic record in a Maryland online court database search.

Contracted school bus driver charged with DWI after crash with DCPS students

Reynolds shouldn’t have even been on the road in Virginia, according to Fairfax County police. A department spokesperson said his license was already revoked due to a previous DWI. On Friday, a police spokesperson confirmed Reynolds may also be facing a federal charge for using a fake medical card on a commercial driver’s license.

FOX 5 was told teachers on the bus forced Reynolds to pull over after he went off the road and crashed into a rock, damaging a rim and tire.

Tremond Jackson told FOX 5 he had to rush his 5-year-old daughter to the hospital after she later showed symptoms of a head injury following the school bus crash.

"Any of those kids could’ve passed away, could’ve hurt themselves severely, anything. So I’m just looking for answers to the questions that I have," Jackson said. "It seems like no one’s trying to answer." 

"I think the District needs to do a better job of vetting the vendors, DCPS. I don’t know how an organization has unlicensed drivers and drivers who drink on the job on the vendor’s list," said another parent, who learned of the incident a day later. 

One father told FOX 5 that he's worried and hopes "it’s a one-off" situation. 

Police said Reynolds' blood alcohol content was .20, which is .12 higher than the legal limit in Virginia. They also noted all three bus drivers involved – Reynolds, a second driver, and the driver that came to replace Reynolds – did not have the proper commercial driver’s licenses needed to operate a school bus. 

Police said they also found 18 safety violations between the two school buses on the trip and pulled a third off the road for other violations.

"All children were evaluated by emergency medical services following the incident and there are no injuries reported," DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee wrote in a statement. "We appreciate the support of Fairfax County law enforcement, who are welcoming students at a nearby training facility as they await transportation back to the school. We will do a thorough review of our transportation vendors to ensure that student safety is always prioritized. We are incredibly thankful that no one sustained injuries during this frightening incident."

On Friday's virtual press call with reporters, Dr. Ferebee was asked repeatedly what oversight DCPS does have of its bus vendors. Not wanting to get into specifics, the chancellor affirmed that DCPS is looking into oversight and what measures they can take in the future.

He also noted that in a conversation with the vendor, Rome Charters said they do check drivers before they head out and have GPS trackers on their buses. The company told the chancellor there was no indication of something wrong. 

However, the question of how these drivers were allowed to operate the school buses without proper licensing, is still unanswered.

DCPS confirmed a teacher did go to the hospital to get checked out on Friday.

Rome Charters LLC did not answer FOX 5 D.C.’s request for a response.