At a special called meeting of the Loudon County Board Of Education Wednesday night, board members heard for the first time the details of how a bus driver with a known prescription drug abuse problem was allowed to continue to operate a school bus. Even though Director of Schools, Wayne Honeycutt, and Director of Transportation, Gil Lutterll, had knowledge of the driver's drug problem, the decision was made to allow her to continue to drive a bus. Luttrell stated that based a the doctor's opinion that the driver was ok to drive the bus, he made the decision to allow the driver to drive a bus.

BOE member Scott Newman had made Honeycutt and Luttrell aware of the driver's drug problem two weeks before the DUI incident took place. There was discussion of "beefing up" board policy to help prevent a similar incident from happening again. However board member Newman and myself pointed out that policies were already in place that should have prevented the incident from ever happening but administrators ignored those policies. You can write all the policies in the world but if they are not enforced they're useless.

Doctor testifies in Loudon school bus incident

Driver was screened, deemed OK before arrest

Hugh G. Willett

LOUDON - School officials allowed a Loudon County school bus driver suspected of having a drug problem to return to work on the advice of a physician who, after meeting with the driver and administering a drug test, felt she was fit to drive.

"I spent 45 minutes with the woman," said Dr. John Sanabria, medical director for Loudon County schools. "I was convinced this woman was OK."

Vicki Lynn Kwasny, 48, was arrested Sept. 29 and charged with DUI and reckless endangerment after being discovered nonresponsive behind the wheel of a bus loaded with children. She admitted to being under the influence of Soma, a muscle relaxant for which she had a prescription.

Sanabria and school officials testified before the Loudon Board of Education Wednesday in a meeting called to review the incident and the policies and procedures for hiring and screening bus drivers.

Assistant Schools Director Gil Luttrell told the board he was notified after Labor Day by school board member Scott Newman that the driver might have a drug problem. Newman, a Loudon police officer, said he was aware that emergency medical services had been called to Kwasny's home several times for reported drug overdoses.

Luttrell said that he and schools director Wayne Honeycutt acted immediately upon hearing from Newman. Kwasny was referred to a doctor for a medical screening within two hours after the school department learned about her recent drug problems, he said.

"I sent her to get a fit-for-duty drug screening," he said.

Sanabria said that Kwasny, who was given a 10-drug screen for illegal drugs, was forthcoming about her use of the prescription drug Soma. Taken as prescribed, Soma can be out of the system in eight hours, making it hard to tell if the woman was abusing the drug, he said.

Board member Craig Simon, who said he was familiar with federal drug guidelines for drivers, pointed out that use of Soma, even under prescription, should have disqualified Kwasny from driving a school bus, regardless of her condition during the medical examination.

The board also discussed whether changes to the existing policies could have averted the incident.

"We can write policies all day long but it doesn't mean anything if the policies are not followed," said board member Van Shaver. "The ball was dropped on this end."

Attorney Chuck Cagle, who is representing Loudon County Schools, said he believes the school department followed policies in this case. Cagle also suggested that schools could get a better handle on the implementation of policy by taking the drug screening process in-house.

Simon agreed to organize another meeting that would include input from Sanabria and Cagle to close any loopholes in the existing policy that allowed the driver to remain on the job.