A labor union president was criticized Thursday for turning the death of 11-year-old Allen Elementary School student Kaylee Derks -- who was struck and killed by a school bus Friday -- into a political argument.
"I don't spew union propaganda," John Carr, president of the Education Support Employees Association, told the Clark County School Board. The union represents drivers.
Carr told School Board members that the tragedy was the inevitable result of the Clark County School District's new bus routing system, which he opposed. It presses drivers "to the limit" by working them nine hours a day. Compass, the new bus routing system software, was introduced this school year. It helps plan efficient routes and tracks changes to routes and stops throughout the school year.
But Carr has not been privy to the Las Vegas police investigation of the accident, which probably will be deemed "unpreventable and unforeseeable," district spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said.
Kaylee, a fifth-grader, was killed by the bus Friday after being dropped off at a stop on Ann Road and Pebble Rock Drive, near U.S. Highway 95.
The driver, Leslie Rice, 46, is on sick leave. Officials said he passed a drug and alcohol test at the scene of the 3:30 p.m. accident. Rice was a full-time bus driver who filled in for other drivers on their days off. He has never had an accident in his six years as a driver for the district.
Kaylee was in the street when she was struck by the bus, which had turned into the neighborhood to continue its route.
"This bus should not have been there," Carr contended.
He argued the bus route was dangerous and included a U-turn, which should never be done with a 40-foot bus.
"Mr. Carr simply does not have his facts straight," Fulkerson said. The bus didn't do a U-turn, and drivers aren't working nine-hour days, she said.
Carr said he hasn't reviewed the route of the bus that killed Kaylee.
Typically, the School Board doesn't respond to public comment. Members just listen. But they made an exception for Carr on Thursday. Board member Carolyn Edwards said the union president's take on Kaylee's death was "egregious" and motivated by political purposes.
"I'm very disappointed this tactic is being used today," Edwards said. "This family and bus driver deserve better than this."
Afterward, Carr again asserted that he's "not using the tragedy as union-spewing propaganda." He said that is not the case because the driver is not a union member.
"There's a time and place to have those discussions, and that's certainly not now," Fulkerson said.
District officials said Monday that they've changed the route in question out of respect for the family and the community.
That bus stop was not moved, but the bus will avoid the neighborhood and head west on Ann before turning around in a commercial center.
Contact Trevon Milliard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279.