Mom shocked school van driver had criminal record

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David Preston left a 7-year-old girl locked inside a school shuttle van outside a Houston hotel. (KTRK)

The startling surveillance video showing a 7-year-old girl wandering away from a private school transport van has parents asking some tough questions: Are these private vans trustworthy in Texas?

The answer appears to be, nobody knows.

In this specific case, the girl was supposed to be driven to Jones Elementary in Aldine ISD on Monday. However, video shows the driver, David Preston, drove instead to a motel and parked the van. It took 35 minutes for the little girl to get out of the van herself, and then a Good Samaritan found her.

"Oh my God, man they need to do some background checks on these people," said Janet Henderson, a parent we ran into outside the school. "That is sad, that is sad."

What is really upsetting though is that there are almost no regulations that would have prevented what happened.

The private transport company, Cypresswood Kids Shuttle, could have done background checks. If it had, it would have found that Preston had multiple criminal convictions. However, there is no state law that requires the company to do so.

SURVEILLANCE VIDEO: Little girl escapes from locked van
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Surveillance video shows the scary situation unfold as a 7-year-old girl escapes from a shuttle van outside the hotel.

In fact, the lack of state regulations found by Eyewitness News may be shocking to parents. The State of Texas only regulates passenger vehicles that carry 15 people or more. Even then, there is a mere website where people can search for registrations and upload complaints. It's unclear how strong enforcement efforts are.

If the private vans carry fewer than 15 passengers and the business is located in Houston, then the City of Houston does provide oversight. It requires registration and a number of other compliance issues.

However, in this case, the van company is located in Harris County, so there is no regulation. In fact, having regulation for these small transport vans would be the exception, not the norm in Texas.

For this case, the owner, Keyona Raven, was not required to do background checks on its drivers, and does not have to register her van with anyone.

"I just want to put it behind me," Raven told Eyewitness News yesterday. In many ways, she is not wrong. Legally, there is nothing that is keeping her from continuing to operate her business.

The little girl's mother is upset that Cypress Kids Shuttle was part of list of transportation options handed out by the school principal. Aldine ISD tells Eyewitness News that the list was just a courtesy, and that the school district has no oversight of private companies. A copy of the latest courtesy list provided to us by the mother simply shows the Cypresswood Kids Shuttle line crossed out.

EXCLUSIVE: School driver leaves girl in van outside hotel
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A little girl who was supposed to be at school found herself in a fight for survival instead.

So what can you do as a parent?

If you live in the City of Houston, you can check this list of all the registered private transport services here. You can also read the general city of Houston passenger van regulations here.

Statewide, for vans over 15 passengers, you can search for the company's registration and complaint history here.

In general though, state officials say most of these private buses are just not regulated.

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