Kingsport school leaders say student behavior partially to blame for bus driver shortage

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – As the new school year approaches, districts are working to fix bus driver shortages. It is a common theme for many school systems: the need for bus drivers.

Kingsport City Schools is one of many schools in the nation dealing with a bus driver shortage.

Right now, school districts are in the final phase of preparation to make sure schools are ready for students, and from a transportation standpoint is making sure buses are ready to roll.

However, there is a small issue local school districts are facing. Kingsport City School officials said they are down, saying the root of the problem is students misbehaving on buses.

“Our number one task is to drive the bus,” supervisor of transportation, Tommy Starnes said.

He has worked with students for the last 13 years.

“We transport about 2,000 students daily, so discipline is a daily thing,” Starnes said.

While the job has its rewards, it also comes with its challenges.

Starnes said, “A driver can’t be looking behind him all the time to maintain control.”

The district is down five bus drivers, which is causing him to concern, as the start of school is two weeks away.

“Student discipline has a lot to do with it,” Starnes said.

He has no tolerance when it comes to poor bus etiquette.

Starnes said, “Kingsport has seat belts and it’s mandatory. It’s part of city policy. So, a student can be disciplined for not wearing a seat belt, being out of their seat, all ranging to fighting on the bus.”

Assistant superintendent Andy True explained that parents and teachers must work with students to encourage good behavior.

“The driver has a very difficult task, not only to remove a very large vehicle through city traffic, but also maintain order and discipline for the students that are behind him,” said True.

Kingsport City School officials said its bus drivers drive about a half a million miles each school year, so discipline is crucial with the amount of driving, and the volume of students they face.

A copy of the Kingsport City Schools’ student handbook from 2017-2018, can be found here. School bus discipline can be found on page 23. The new handbook will be posted later this week.

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