School bus driver charged with DUI

March 10, 2010 4:31:06 PM PST
Police in northwest suburban Mt. Prospect say a school bus driver was nearly three times over the legal limit when she was pulled over after dropping off about 50 elementary school children.

Betty Burden, 54, was arrested Tuesday for felony DUI. Police say she had a blood alcohol concentration of .226, nearly three times the legal limit. A sergeant and officer made the stop.

"Sgt. Eterno had the subject step out of the bus, perform a field sobriety test and the woman failed all field sobriety tests," said Officer Mark Bechtold, Mt. Prospect police department.

"My heart is broken about this. 'Cause there definitely is a trust that is broken. Am I going to drive my kid to school tomorrow? Probably," said Kelley McCarron, parent.

McCarron's 5-year-old son is a kindergarten student at Lions Park Elementary. He got off his school bus shortly before Burden was arrested.

Police say Burden picked up about 50 students from Lions Park Elementary Tuesday afternoon. Police got a call from the district's transportation coordinator. An employee told him that she smelled alcohol on Burden's breath. The transportation director went to stop the bus.

"He found her location on the route and that's when he pulled the bus over and tried to do an assessment of her condition and there were no indications that there was anything wrong," said Superintendent Elaine Aumiller, Mt. Prospect School District 57.

After that, the transportation director called police. By this time, the bus was empty.

Police arrested Burden. School officials say she has worked for the district for about 10 years from 1991 to 1999, and then she was hired again from August, 2008 to the present. The district says she has had three random drug tests. Two of them have been during the last year and a half.

The news still surprises parents.

"I would think that this school would have very reliable co-workers, and especially because we own the buses, we don't contract them," said Elizabeth Zupinski, parent.

"I was shocked. I mean it doesn't seem like it should be possible. I heard of Ms. Betty and she was a little old lady," said Tania Hills, parent.

McCarron agrees. The bus driver, she says, was nice. And she hopes the driver will get help.

"Like many people, I've had alcoholism touch my own family. So I can empathy for her, this is a disease," said McCarron.

ABC7 tried to contact Burden but has not heard back from her.

Aumiller says Burden is suspended without pay and plans to ask that she be fired at next Thursday's school board meeting.