Officials from the school district told reporters they pulled surveillance footage from the bus following the crash. The video shows Gilliam wearing earbud headphones and using a cell phone. Gilliam told authorities the phone wasn’t the cause of the crash, claiming she fell asleep at the wheel shortly before the accident. Police cited Gilliam for careless driving. Denver Public Schools opted to terminate her employment.
In Colorado, it is not illegal for bus drivers to use cell phones while on the job, reports note. State law prohibits texting while driving but does not bar adults from speaking on the phone while operating motor vehicles. “Novice drivers”—those under the age of 18—are the only drivers not allowed to talk on the phone while driving. Drivers under the age of 18 can only make calls in emergency situations, like when they are reporting traffic accidents, fires, or road hazards. At 32, Nykeshia Gilliam was not technically breaking any laws by talking on the phone while driving a school bus.
Gilliam’s background has been brought up in several articles covering the crash. In 2007, she was charged with misdemeanor theft. The incident shows up in a search of Colorado Bureau of Investigation records. However, since the charge did not involve Gilliam’s driving record, it was not viewed by school administrators as expressly relevant to the position at hand. EEOC guidance urges employers to consider the relevance of all criminal history findings before taking adverse action against new hires.
Denver Public Schools confirmed to reporters it runs background checks on all potential employees, including bus drivers. Administrators also noted misdemeanor convictions are not automatic disqualifiers for job consideration. The district considers misdemeanors on a case-by-case basis when they come up in the hiring process. In this case, the district claims at the time of her hire that Gilliam’s criminal history was viewed as having no bearing on her ability to operate a school bus in a safe and responsible manner.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments