Loudon school bus driver punished for act

She can't ferry students after ordering children off vehicle

Hugh G. Willett, knoxnews.com
Thursday, November 15, 2007

Loudon County school bus driver Brenda Cook will lose her job for ordering several disruptive children off her bus last week, but her actions do not warrant criminal charges, according to District Attorney General Russell Johnson.

Cook was removed from the school system's list of approved drivers and will not be allowed to drive a school bus in Loudon County, according to Gil Luttrell, assistant superintendent and director of transportation.

"She made a very bad decision that day," Luttrell said.

In a letter to Sheriff Tim Guider, Johnson said that after conducting an investigation he had determined that Cook's actions, while creating the possibility of danger, did not create the probability of danger.

"It is my opinion that we cannot prove a charge of reckless endangerment nor child neglect," Russell wrote.

The letter offered the best description yet of what actually occurred on the bus Nov. 7 as Cook was transporting children from Eaton Elementary and North Middle schools to their homes along Loudon Ridge Road.

"Several of the students were misbehaving and throwing items some of which actually hit Cook while she was driving," the letter said.

Cook stopped the bus near the intersection of Davis and Loudon Ridge Road and "demanded the two most disruptive students leave the bus. Apparently several other students also left the bus voluntarily as well."

Cook told investigators that she had left the same students off in that area at their own request in the past.

School department policy does not allow the bus driver to let the children off at other than the specified stop without the written consent of the parent, Johnson said.

Proper procedure instructs Cook to use her cell phone to call law enforcement or a school administrator in the case of trouble.

Cook has not been available for comment since the incident occurred last week. Vonnie Myers, owner of the bus, did not respond to calls Wednesday.

Click here to read the letter from District Attorney General Russell Johnson to Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider recommending no criminal charges against bus driver (PDF).