Padlock removed from school bus emergency exit after WBTV investigation

School padlocks back of bus
Photo sent to On Your Side Investigates from a viewer.
Photo sent to On Your Side Investigates from a viewer.

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A local charter school is taking action to improve the safety of its school buses after questions from On Your Side Investigates.

A WBTV viewer sent a picture of a school bus with a padlock over the emergency exit on Monday. In the picture, the bus' emergency exit is locked shut, meaning students would be unable to use the exit in the event of an emergency.

The concerned viewer snapped a picture of the locked exit and sent it to the On Your Side Investigates tip line but the picture did not clearly identify who owned the school bus.

WEB EXTRA: Click here to send a tip to On Your Side Investigates.

On Your Side Investigates reached out to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction's chief of Transportation Services, Derek Graham, to find out who owned the bus. Using only a school bus number and a partial license plate, Graham and is staff were able to trace the bus to Aristotle Preparatory Academy.

Aristotle Preparatory Academy is a charter school and is allowed to operate school buses but is not required by law to have them inspected.

On Your Side Investigates: No requirement for charter school buses to be inspected in North Carolina

On Tuesday, a DPI staff member visited the school.

"A DPI Transportation Consultant visited the school today where he saw a couple of buses with padlocks installed – for overnight security," Graham told On Your Side Investigates. "The locks were not locked when he visited today and it was reported that these are for security and are not locked when the bus is in operation."

The bus shown in the picture snapped by our viewer clearly shows the padlock locked shut while the school bus was in use.

"The school voluntarily removed the padlocks from the emergency door this morning, before the afternoon routes were run," Graham said.

In an email to On Your Side Investigates, the school's director, David Davis, acknowledged the incident.

"I did speak with the inspector and we did rectify the situation.  We have addressed it with all drivers, in hopes that it does not happen again," Davis said. "Thanks for bringing it to our attention."

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