Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Letter to Minister of Education, Kelly Lamrock asking for meeting

Hon. Kelly Lamrock
Minister of Education
Place 2000
P. O. Box 6000
Fredericton, NB
E3B 5H1


Minister Lamrock:

As you know, the Coroners Jury for the Inquest into the crash that killed our sons on January 12, 2008 has returned 24 recommendations, fourteen of which were from a list the parents agreed upon and submitted to the Jury as a group on Wednesday, May 13.

In our view, the two most important of the Jury's recommendations are those concerning 1) the responsibilities of the Department of Education towards students travelling to off-site, extra-curricular activities and 2) Class 2 Drivers.

"Nothing less than a qualified Class 2 yellow school bus driver with endorsements for school buses and air brakes should be used for travel to off-site extra-curricular events. Teachers, coaches and parents, as well as volunteers, should not drive children to off-site events."

"The Department of Education should take full responsibility for the safety of children travelling to off-site extra-curricular events when they are representing their schools."

Everything else flows from these two critical points.

You are now aware that the Coroners Jury recommendations are a complete and utter rejection of your Department's planned Class 4 Drivers Training Pilot Project, which we only learned about through the testimony of your Assistant Deputy Minister Elizabeth Abraham, on Tuesday, May 12, the day before the Inquest finished.

We also discovered that your Department had already sent the Class 4 Drivers Training Program to Tender long before this Coroners Jury sat and delivered its recommendations.

The fact that your Department had already gone ahead with plans to train Class 4 drivers when you as Minister knew full well that we parents have been calling for Class 2 drivers from the beginning is an example of how your Department has not consulted with the parents except for a superficial dinner and one and a half-hour "workshop" with District 2 Superintendent Karen Branscombe five days before the Inquest.

The "workshop" included multiple-choice questions about how we would deal with the transportation of students if faced with bad weather conditionsand the families all agreed on Class 2 yellow scool bus drivers. Nothing was said about a Class 4 Drivers Training Pilot Project which we understand from Ms. Abraham's testimony is expected to be piloted before the end of June. The fact that we were not told about the Pilot Training Project at this meeting only two weeks ago prove that this so-called consultation with the parents was not sincere as you had already made up your mind about the direction the Department of Education was going to take with Class 4 Drivers.

It is because our sons died that new policies are being developed. We expect to be treated as partners in the development of any policies or regulations that may come out of the Corners Jury recommendations. Now that you know the Jury has categorically rejected Class 4 Drivers it is incumbent upon you to meet with us as equals at the table and to work towards safe transportation of all children in the future using Class 2 drivers. We will accept nothing less, which is exactly what the Coroners Jury said in its recommendation: "Nothing less than a qualified Class 2 yellow school bus driver..."

We fully believe that if we do not continue to pressure your Department, the Coroners Jury recommendations will be collecting dust on a shelf somewhere in Fredericton and we will not allow that to happen.

Do not make us have to fight for these recommendations to be implemented. They were developed by a Jury that sat and heard testimony from 33 witnesses over eight days in a Bathurst courtroom. We know that under the current Coroners Act, the recommendations are not binding. However, you cannot ignore the will of a Coroners Jury and the determination of parents who will not give up until we see all children in New Brunswick safely transported to off-site, extra-curricular activities. We do this in honour of our boys who had a future that was taken from them so tragically, in a collision that should have been prevented if your employees had been doing their jobs.

We are waiting for you to reply to us as soon as possible as we are eager to meet with you to discuss the implementation of the Coroners Jury recommendations in an open, honest dialogue.

In addition, there are several other issues which we feel must be raised with your Department, specifically Policy 512 and 513, as well as the proposed new District 15 transportation policies which were submitted to the Coroners Jury as exhibits. We have not seen these documents and want to have a copy of them immediately.

We had to fight to get a Coroners Inquest, an inquest whose motto was "To protect the living." We have been through so much already in the last sixteen months. Do not make us fight to get the Coroners Jury recommendations implemented.

Yours sincerely,

Isabelle Hains and Ana Acevedo