Tennessee Governor Says Outsourcing Buses Needs To Be Reassessed After Chattanooga Crash

Candles and gifts memorialize the six Chattanooga children killed when the school bus they were riding crashed. Credit: TN Photo Services.

Candles and gifts memorialize the six Chattanooga children killed when the school bus they were riding crashed. Credit: TN Photo Services.

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After last week’s school bus crash in Chattanooga, Governor Bill Haslam says Tennessee’s leaders need to reassess how to use private companies to operate buses.

Emails show school administrators were warned about the driver of the bus months ago.

The accident has claimed six lives, and Haslam says it appears to be a sign of deeper problems.

“I really think we need to take a whole, fresh look at school buses,” he says. “From the beginning. From how school boards select contractors to how they hire drivers to whether seat belts are appropriate. There are a lot of questions out there.”

One big question is why 24-year-old Johnthony Walker was driving a school bus.

Parents, teachers, even the kids themselves had complained he was dangerous behind the wheel. Walker was said to be unrepentant when criticized about his driving, but because he was employed by a private bus contractor, administrators say their options for dealing with him were limited.

Haslam seems to be saying districts should get more power to discipline drivers. He stops short of saying outsourcing is a bad idea in all circumstances.

That sort of determination shouldn’t be made until more facts are in from crash investigators, says Haslam.

This story was originally published by WPLN on November 28, 2016.

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