KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — The contracted driver of a Sullivan County school bus faces several charges after police reported that they found a substance believed to be meth, pipes and other drug paraphernalia on bus 415.
Kingsport police assisted Sullivan County authorities to arrest the driver, who is employed by a contracted company — not the school system. The suspect, identified as Contessia D. Cravens, 45, of Fall Branch, was arrested at the contractor’s bus depot on Tilthammer Drive on Oct. 26.
When officers pulled up to Cravens — who was still in the school bus with the keys reportedly in the ignition — in marked vehicles at 4:37 p.m., police say they saw her moving around in the front seat and that it appeared as though she had just turned off the bus.
Police asked Cravens to exit the school bus, and she allegedly stalled before officers “had her step down” to arrest her for violating probation. Online court records state previous charges against her include shoplifting and a seat belt violation.
Caitlyn Cleek, a parent of a 5-year-old, said she let her daughter take the bus for the very first time on a field trip to Fenders Farm in Jonesborough.
“We got to follow behind the bus, but we were so far behind we couldn’t tell if there was any weird driving or anything like that,” Cleek said. “To know that she later got arrested was absolutely sickening.”
Amanda Jarrett’s 5-year-old daughter was also on board the bus the day Cravens was arrested.
“They should do random drug tests and like really extensive backgrounds on people that they hire,” Jarrett said.
Director of Sullivan County Schools Evelyn Rafalowski described Cravens as a new hire who had only been driving a bus two days before her arrest.
Cravens told police that she only had one purse on the bus and that all other items had been left behind by passengers, according to an incident report from the Kingsport Police Department (KPD).
Officers reported finding a purse and several other items, including a pouch near the driver’s controls and a second purse. Police reportedly found a small baggie of suspected meth inside the pouch and a “methamphetamine bong with residue” and a cut straw with an identifying item in the second purse. She allegedly admitted the items were hers.
Police reported that Cravens performed poorly on a series of sobriety tests and declined a blood test. She allowed police to search her personal vehicle in the parking lot, where authorities reported finding multiple baggies, a scale, two pipes with residue, a straw and another pack of suspected meth in a black ammo box. The combined weight of the substance was 2.8 grams.
The Kingsport Police Department used a warrant to gather a blood sample from Cravens, which will undergo lab testing via the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation along with the substance found in the baggies. Police reported seizing the baggies, bong, digital scale, LBA kit, mirror with residue, glass pipe, school bus and Cravens’ personal vehicle.
She faces the following charges: driving a commercial vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant, felony possession of schedule II drugs and three counts of unlawful drug paraphernalia.
Rafalowski identified the contractor as C& S Transit in a statement provided to News Channel 11. Rafalowski said after she learned of Cravens’ arrest Wednesday, she issued a statement to affected families.
Her full statement can be read below:
“Sullivan County Schools is committed to the safety of our students at all times. It is extremely concerning and devastating that we would have anyone associated with the care of our students who would be engaged in this type of activity. I was made aware on Wednesday, October 26th, at approximately 5:30pm, that a driver for one of our contractors, C & S Transit, had been arrested. I then issued a statement to our affected families to make them aware of an arrest that evening. This particular driver was a new hire and had driven for two days prior to the arrest and has not driven a bus for our school district since that date. I want to add that Sullivan County Schools has many outstanding school bus drivers who provide safe transportation for our students every day of the week and I am most grateful for their service to our school district.”Evelyn Rafalowski, Director of Sullivan County Schools
News Channel 11 reached out to C & S Transit, and the company declined to comment.
“She could have killed my baby or those babies on that bus,” Cleek said. “To know that she’s walking away without any child endangerment charges just makes me sick.”