Bus driver may face criminal charges over student claims
Posted: Nov 8, 2007 06:19 PM EST
By WHITNEY HOLMES
6 News Reporter
LOUDON COUNTY (WATE) -- A Loudon County school bus driver accused of kicking students off a bus more than a mile from home may be facing criminal charges.
The driver, Brenda Cook, was suspended after the incident on Wednesday. Cook's actions are investigated by the Loudon County Sheriff's Department.The district attorney is looking into the case and says charges are pending.
"Even if they ask, unless they got approved by a parent, they are not to be let off," says Director of Schools Edward Headlee.
Her boss, Vonnie Myers, says Cook told him she let a couple of kids off her bus about a 1/2 mile off from their stop and some of their friends elected to go with them.
Myers also says Cook said the kids continued to act up, creating a safety issue. "She said there was language and it was very loud and they were throwing beads and said they had hit her more than once."
The director of schools says they do a thorough background check on the drivers.
Cook's record was clean. She'd worked in the school system before as an educational assistant and had been driving a bus for about year.
Headlee and Myers say there have been no serious complaints about Cook. "There haven't been any major complaints, just little things like going too fast or not letting kids off at the right time."
Investigators still need to figure out how many kids got off the bus and if they asked to get off or they were kicked off.
Either way, Cook could loose her job.
"At this point, we are assuming they were put off the bus. If they were, there are very serious consequences to deal with which could lead up to termination as an unapproved driver."
Cook didn't want to go onto camera with 6 News Thursday but she says she's regretful about the incident.
The video tape on the bus' camera ran out so there's no record of what happened.
Investigators will interview students. They hope to determine whether they will suspend or terminate Cook by Friday.
School bus driver suspended
Bus driver Brenda Cook told Transportation Director Gil Luttrell she was trying to protect other passengers when she asked two misbehaving students to get off the vehicle on steep and narrow Loudon Ridge Road, not far from Sugarlimb Road near the Justice Center.
Seven students got off, however. Some went to a nearby student's house and called their parents, but at least one had to walk about a mile home, Luttrell said.
Cook said the two students she originally told to get off were throwing objects inside the bus and endangering the other students. A videotape from a recorder on the bus was blank. Luttrell said drivers are trained to call 911 for police assistance and they carry cell phones.
Cook, a driver for four years, has been suspended while the investigation continues, Superintendent Edward Headlee said.Bus drivers are not authorized to remove students from a bus, Headlee said. "They are supposed to transport them home, and then they are supposed to take the videotape to the school principal," Headlee said.
Cook's future with the school system apparently will be decided by Luttrell, who said he will make a decision next week.Luttrell said that in the four years Cook has driven a bus she never had a complaint similar to Wednesday's but had "a number" of complaints about dependability and not being on time.Cook works for bus contractor Vonnie Myers, who declined comment Thursday.The students were from Eaton and North middle schools. Principals at those schools will decide whether to discipline the students.