Cold shoulder — bus company mum on ‘frigid’ firing

They’ve taken this route before.
The controversial firing of a school bus driver, followed by a corporate refusal to discuss the matter when the outrage hits the fan.
In Calgary, parents are livid — but the bus company isn’t talking.
“In accordance with employee privacy laws and corporate policy, I am not at liberty to discuss this personnel issue, or any other, with the media or the general public,” is the answer from First Student spokeswoman Jen Biddinger.
Biddinger’s no comment deals with the firing of a veteran Calgary school bus driver, who put the safety of shivering children above a rule banning students from private vehicles.
Official silence is the policy, despite pointed questions from Calgary parents who pay $295 a year for their children to take First Student buses. They’re customers who want Kendra Lindon to get her job back.
Lindon, a 10-year veteran on the same route, decided to break the rules after her bus wouldn’t start in a -37C windchill — and aware help from dispatch could be 20 minutes or more away, she used to her own SUV to keep the junior high students warm.
It meant driving a couple blocks on quiet Hawkwood roads to fetch kids she’d known for years, before waiting for help to arrive.
But a nosy parent spotted what Lindon did, and reported her for using a personal vehicle to ferry kids in the frozen weather — and that afternoon the beloved bus driver was fired.
“Can’t believe you fired that poor lady. Shame on you First Student. You have zero compassion,” is one of many angry messages left on the First Student Facebook site on Tuesday — but the conversation is only one way.
It isn’t the first time the Cincinnati-based bus company has felt public wrath over perceived employee injustice, while refusing to explain.
In January, a 20-year veteran driver in southeast Saskatchewan was fired after she spoke up about the lack of snow tires and condition of brakes on her bus. First Student issued a statement saying it would not discuss personnel issues, but buses do undergo stringent safety checks.
In December, a Dalton, Ga., driver was fired after rowdy middle school students bullied and berated her while at the wheel, forcing her to pull over and call police for help. As per policy, First Student refuses to explain.
In November 2012, a First Student driver for the Syracuse School District says she was fired for raising concerns about dangerous behaviour among students on buses, but again, the company wouldn’t talk.
For a strictly private company, the wall of silence from First Student would be acceptable — but this is a corporation reaping a profit from public dollars, under contracts with tax-funded organizations like the Calgary Board of Education.
Refusing to answer customers means good drivers like Kendra Lindon can be fired without recourse or appeal — even when parents on her route have written multiple letters asking that she be reinstated.
“Under the circumstances for the day, ongoing extreme weather conditions and an inoperable bus, Kendra went above and beyond the call of duty,” wrote Melanie Paulson, in one typical letter to First Student.
“I understand there are rules and legal ramifications involved, and while some disciplinary action may be appropriate, termination was an over-reaction by both First Student and the CBE.”
The CBE, despite collecting cash from parents to pay First Student, says it is helpless to interfere in the firing of Lindon, and it was a First Student decision to issue the pink slip.
Meanwhile, Lindon herself says she heard nothing but support from parents across Canada — but not a peep from the company who fired her.
“People are outraged, and everybody seems to be supporting me,” said Lindon.
“But I haven’t heard anything from (First Student).”

Cold shoulder — bus company mum on ‘frigid’ firing | Columnists | Opinion | Calgary Sun (external - login to view)


The CBE, despite collecting cash from parents to pay First Student, says it is helpless to interfere in the firing of Lindon, and it was a First Student decision to issue the pink slip.

They may not be responsible for the decision to fire the driver but should they not be responsible to those who's money they take (the parents who are complaining) and intervene on their behalf?