Judge Rules In Favor Of Las Cruces Schools In Bus Dispute

Las Cruces – Third Judicial District Court Chief Judge Jerald A. Valentine of Las Cruces has ruled in favor of a request by Las Cruces Public Schools for a preliminary injunction against the school district's bus contractor, First Student, Inc. The ruling prevents the bus company from terminating its fleet service contract "except upon 60 days' notice to the (school district)."

"We are very pleased with the court's decision," said LCPS Superintendent Stan Rounds. "This now ensures the district will have school bus transportation for its students for the remainder of this school year."

In a March 15, 2010 letter to Rounds, First Student said it planned to discontinue school bus service to the district on March 31, 2010. LCPS was granted a temporary restraining order March 24, which prevented the company from terminating its contract without a minimum of 60 days' notice, which is a part of the contract with LCPS.

Valentine's ruling reiterates that the notice must be done in accordance with the contract, stating, "Cancellation of the contract shall be effective only after the (School) Board grants written consent" and notice must also be provided to the State Transportation Director of the Public Education Department.

Valentine went on to rule that "if the Court does not issue the preliminary injunction, the Board of Education and its students will suffer immediate and irreparable harm. Transportation to and from school cannot be arranged if First Student immediately cancels the contract."

Attorneys for LCPS and First Student appeared before Valentine April 16 in a five-and-one-half-hour hearing on LCPS' motion for the preliminary injunction. Each side presented written final arguments April 21, and Valentine issued his ruling today, Thursday, April 22, 2010.

First Student owns and operates a fleet of 136 buses that transports about 9,200 students from home to school and back each school day. First Student's contract with LCPS is through June 30, 2010.

Rounds said the district has already begun planning on how to provide bus service next school year.