A school bus driver from Mount Prospect Elementary District 57 faces drunken driving charges after delivering 50 students to their homes while she had a blood-alcohol level of nearly three times the legal limit, police said.
The driver, Betty Burden, 54, was arrested at about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, just after she finished dropping off about 50 children from Lions Park Elementary School in Mount Prospect, police said.
Burden, 54, of the 1400 block of Park Drive in Mount Prospect, was arrested while driving her bus north on River Road, north of Euclid Road. She was charged with aggravated DUI of alcohol, authorities said. She appeared in court Wednesday morning in Rolling Meadows and Judge Kay Hanlon gave her a $10,000 bond.
One of Burden's co-workers smelled alcohol on Burden's breath at around 2:30 p.m., before the buses left the school, authorities said.
But school board President Joe Leane said the co-worker didn't notify District 57 Transportation Coordinator Vince Ramirez until after Burden started her route with the students on board.
"After he was notified, Mr. Ramirez immediately left to intercept the bus driver," Leane said.
Ramirez boarded Burden's bus at her first stop and spoke with her, but didn't smell alcohol and it didn't appear she was under the influence, Leane said.
Ramirez let Burden continue her route, Leane said. He followed behind Burden and called Mount Prospect police.
When police arrived and pulled Burden over, they did smell alcohol on her breath and noticed she had bloodshot, watery eyes, authorities said.
Burden, who first started working for District 57 in 1991, registered a .230 blood-alcohol concentration level at the scene after police stopped the bus, prosecutors said. Prosecutors said she told authorities she'd been drinking vodka and orange juice at lunch.
Burden, who has no criminal background, was taken to the police station after she failed the on-site sobriety test, authorities said. She then registered a .226 blood-alcohol concentration on a second test at the station, police said.
School district officials indicated Wednesday afternoon that they had suspended Burden without pay and will recommend her termination at the next Board of Education meeting, which is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 18 at District 57's administrative office at 701 Gregory St.
"What happened is outrageous," Leane said. "It's unacceptable. The safety of our students is our number one concern."
Burden's first stint working for District 57 went from 1991 until 2001, according to the school district Web site. She worked in a doctor's office until returning to the district in 2008.
She's credited on the district Web site as saying that the things she most enjoyed about her job were "the schedule and seeing the children every day. Children are really great to see grow up."
Burden had a "clean disciplinary history and has passed each of the random drug tests we require of all of our bus drivers," said Superintendent Elaine Aumiller in a prepared statement.
"However, it is clear to us that our trust has been betrayed and we offer our deepest apologies to the families affected by this incident," Aumiller said.
If convicted, Burden could face from one to three years in prison. Her next court date is April 1.
• Daily Herald Staff Writer Barbara Vitello contributed to this story.