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Working 4 You: System 'Failed', School Bus Driver Hired Despite Felony Record

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - For a Little Rock mom, she puts trust in the system to keep her son safe.

"Their safety is my up most highest concern," says Carrie Gains, who has two children in the Little Rock School District.

She is shocked to learn Edward Coleman, 68, employed by First Student and contracted by the Little Rock School District to drive school buses, has a felony record.

Working 4 You learned about Coleman after being arrested last week for allegedly shooting his gun inside his home during an argument with his wife.

Coleman's Burglary, Theft of Property and Theft by Receiving convictions date back to 1979 and 1989 which would disqualify him from working in Arkansas public schools.

"I would definitely have concern with them being alone on a bus with someone who had a felony," says Gains.

First Student hired Coleman in August 2013. 

In April 2014, the Department of Education sent a letter to First Student notifying the transportation company Coleman's background check had been denied and is not eligible to work because he had either failed the state, federal or child maltreatment registry check.

The big question is, why did it take so long to get the background check results?

State officials say it takes between four and six weeks to get the results of a background check.

The Department of Education says it only received Coleman's information to run a background check in March 2014, seven months after Coleman was hired.

"I don't think if they have a felony they should be with children," says Gains.

First Student officials say "it's a disappointment", but there's "no record of notification from the Department of Education" the background check was denied.

Officials at the Department of Education say they sent First Student the notification by mail and the piece of mail was not returned.

The Department of Education confirms it does not send employers letters saying someone's background check was approved.

First Student officials say it's considering resubmitting all employee background checks again to make sure there isn't another record that went unnoticed.

"I think this is sad, and it is regrettable and it is unfortunate," says Arkansas School Boards Association Lawyer Kristen Garner.

Garner says mishaps like this in the system are rare.

"This was an isolated case in a place where the system just failed but I think in most cases the system works and the system keeps kids safe," says Garner.

Coleman's criminal record may date back decades, but Gains says she can't take any chances.

"I'm all about giving grace to someone who's done something in the past but I think when it comes to children the standard needs to be set really high," says Gains.

Little Rock School District Spokesperson Pamela Smith says the district has no involvement in the hiring of First Student employees.

The Little Rock School District has no record of First Student requesting a waiver for the employee in question.  It would not be a normal practice by the District to request a background waiver on behalf of a contractor.

Garner says after what's happened here, school districts may want to get more involved in the process as private companies hire employees.

Click here to view the documents seen on TV.

Click here to search your teacher or school bus driver's Department of Education records.


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