KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After two decades of serving as a vital resource on legal issues for the pupil transportation industry, Peggy Burns will retire at the end of 2015.
Burns is the owner of Education Compliance Group, which she and her husband, Mike, launched in 1995. Earlier that year, Burns had requested from the Office for Civil Rights information on cases involving student-to-student sexual harassment in the school setting.
“I learned from the cases I received that a fairly high — surprisingly to me — percentage took place on the school bus,” she said recently.
At the time, Burns was in-house counsel for Adams 12 Five Star Schools in Thornton, Colorado. She discussed her findings with the district’s director of transportation, who suggested that she give a presentation at a Colorado State Pupil Transportation Association meeting.
“I loved the folks, loved their response, and decided then and there that I wanted to learn all I could about legal issues related to pupil transportation, just so I could have additional connection with those dedicated folks,” Burns said.
In the ensuing years, Burns has dispensed guidance for school transporters in the form of consulting, conference presentations, articles, videos and other training materials. She has also served as editor of the publication Legal Routes.
Burns said that she has been struck by the high degree of complexity and responsibility — as well as the potential ramifications of error — involved in transporting students, especially those who have special needs.
“Students’ lives are in [transportation professionals’] hands, and yet they often feel — with reason — unsupported by others in the organization,” she said. “Directors of transportation often ‘come up’ from the ranks of drivers, and they may not have extensive training, other than on-the-job training. Often they come to the position without much education concerning aspects of their jobs that greatly affect student safety and, at a minimum, can embroil them in debate and even litigation.”
Reflecting on her career, Burns said that she has particularly appreciated “problem-solving with people who have a real hunger to do things better. My desire to serve was really spurred on by the interest of school transportation professionals — they cared so much, wanted to know so much, and felt so unsure as to where to get answers. The most rewarding part has been to help find those answers.”
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