Fargo school bus driver accused of DUI with kids on board had prior drunken-driving conviction
FARGO — Fargo police arrested a school bus driver Monday afternoon, Feb. 18, after receiving a tip that a bus was swerving all over the road with children running up and down the aisle.
Officers located the bus at Shanley High School and the driver, Bruce Arnold Tweed, 71, of West Fargo, was arrested on suspicion of DUI with minors in the vehicle, according to a report from Fargo police.
Tweed submitted to a breath test that showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.12 percent, police said. The legal limit for commercial drivers is 0.04 percent, while the legal limit for someone with a regular driver's license is 0.08 percent.
Tweed is an employee of Valley Bus, a company contracted by JPII Catholic Schools for student transportation, according to police.
Valley Bus General Manager John McLaughlin said Tweed is not currently driving for the company, but his ultimate employment status will hinge on the outcome of the court case.
Tweed does not appear to have any DUI convictions in North Dakota, but a check of Minnesota records indicates a Clay County conviction in 2002 for a commercial vehicle DWI involving a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 percent. It's unclear what sort of vehicle Tweed was driving at the time. The documents detailing that case no longer exist, court records show.
McLaughlin said Valley Bus hired Tweed in 2009, and as far as he knows, there have been no major disciplinary issues involving Tweed.
McLaughlin said the company does a thorough background check before hiring drivers, and once hired, there is ongoing scrutiny.
"We do pre-employment drug and alcohol testing before someone joins us. We do a background check at that point that covers their driving and criminal records, it would go back to 2002," McLaughlin said.
He said Valley Bus does ongoing drug and alcohol checks once someone is hired as a driver, and every quarter, 25 percent of drivers undergo random, surprise testing.
The last time Tweed was randomly tested was Jan. 25, and the test result was negative, according to McLaughlin.
He added that managers receive reasonable suspicion training, "so we're keeping an eye out for this sort of thing," and there are annual reviews of driving records done through state agencies.
Employees also undergo physicals every two years, during which drug and alcohol testing is done, according to McLaughlin.
"He's been a good employee," McLaughlin said of Tweed, adding that the situation was sad on many levels.
"It's sad for him, personally. It's sad for Shanley — because they're embarrassed. It's sad for Valley Bus, where we have 200 employees that do all of Fargo's schools, a third of West Fargo's, some of Shanley's," McLaughlin said. "We're very active at all levels."
"We've got a substantial set of procedures to screen out and screen for events like this, but it's troubling that it doesn't catch every single thing," McLaughlin added.
Tom Baumgartner, a parent with two children at JPII Schools, called the incident unsettling.
“Typically there are people you trust in life and the bus driver is someone you just never think twice (about),” he said. “You assume they are driving safely and their record has been examined and they will do what is in the best interest of our children.”
JPII Schools sent an email to parents, saying they will be working closely with Valley Bus to ensure continued safety of their children.
The email to parents read:
Dear St. John Paul II Catholic Schools Parents:
Even if you are not a user of our school transportation, I want to inform you about an event yesterday afternoon with the Valley Bus Shuttle, one of the three bus shuttle routes between our schools. For that route, we contract with Valley Bus. Valley Bus provides that bus and that driver.
A motorist had called the police with a report of a bus being driven erratically. Police followed the bus, which was on the route from Trinity School after the school day, into our parking lot at Shanley-Sullivan campus.
Police then investigated and arrested the Valley Bus driver for DUI.
We are grateful that the children arrived here safely, that the citizen notified the authorities, and that law enforcement personnel did their work for public safety.
After the event, we emailed all parents who use our transportation system to let them know that the driver was unable to continue the route and that Valley Bus assured us that the shuttle bus would continue on Tuesday (Feb. 19) with a different driver.
I want to assure you that we will be working closely with Valley Bus to ensure the continued safety of our children.
President, St. John Paul II Catholic Schools
WDAY News' Kevin Wallevand contributed to this report