Washington Co., Tenn. bus drivers fired for falling asleep at the wheel, drinking alcohol during school day


WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Two Washington County, Tennessee bus drivers have been fired since the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year for violating the district’s drug and alcohol policy, public records reveal.

News Channel 11 obtained the records after multiple parents reached out about inconsistent bus services. In October, Director of Schools Dr. Bill Flanary confirmed two bus drivers had recently been terminated but declined to say why.

MORE: Washington Co. parents complain of inconsistent school bus services; former driver speaks out

Termination letters reveal one driver was fired after falling asleep at the wheel and another for consuming alcohol during the school day.

Mother Holly Ganz said her 16-year-old daughter Rhea was on the bus from Fall Branch to Daniel Boone High School when multiple students observed Carl Harmon drifting off while driving on the highway.

“I said are you kidding me. I said you finally get a bus driver and then they fall asleep,” said Ganz. “She [Rhea] said one of the girls had to wake him up.”

A student took a video, referenced in the termination letter, which shows another student in the front of the bus, rustling Harmon awake.

According to records, an investigation of the September 17th incident began after parents and students reported the “reckless driving” to the bus garage and central office. Harmon was suspended indefinitely without pay–effective September 18th.

The investigation determined Harmon violated the School Board Policy on Drug and Alcohol Testing for Employees, which states, in part, “It is prohibited for employees to use legal drugs in a manner which might interfere with the employee’s performance duties.”

“Absolutely, it made me feel uncomfortable about putting her [Rhea] back on the bus,” Ganz said. “I had no desire for her to get back on there.”

Harmon, who started his employment with the district in February of 2017, was officially terminated on September 24, 2019.

On the same day, Charles McMillan was fired for a separate incident.

McMillan was hired in November 2018. He drove the David Crocket High School and Lamar Elementary route, according to Flanary.

His termination letter said an unnamed insurance agent called law enforcement after he observed McMillan buying and consuming alcohol during the school day.

The letter said McMillan confessed to Transportation Supervisor Tony Roberts.

Flanary, who declined to do an on-camera interview for this story, said in an email that the district’s transportation supervisor had no knowledge of any prior incidents involving McMillan or Harmon.

He said both drivers were hired after passing a background check. He said they also passed pre-employment drug testing and periodic re-testing.

Flanary said, in both cases, the school district acted in a timely manner and in accordance with policy.

“Washington County Schools will always strive to hire the best personnel available for all positions,” he added. “If an employee runs afoul of statutes or policies, we will provide due process and part company with them if necessary.”

Ganz said she was pleased with the school system’s response.

But this isn’t the first time Washington County has had problems with bus drivers.

Washington County Schools Spokesperson Jarrod Adams told News Channel 11 in an interview that the district made significant changes to their transportation department after two incidents in February 2018.

“We had a couple of unfortunate incidents that were almost coincidental that they happened back to back, I hate that, I feel bad about that but moving forward we feel confident in our bus drivers,” Adams said in a May 2018 interview.

MORE: Washington Co., TN school district making changes to transportation dept.

In one case, a driver fell asleep at the wheel, resulting in a crash that sent five students to the hospital.

A Washington County School bus driver hit a tree on Cherokee Mountain Road  in February 2018.

MORE: THP: Washington County, TN school bus driver fell asleep, resulting in crash injuring 6

That same week, another driver was charged with a DUI. There were 23 students on board when police pulled the bus over.

MORE: Washington County, TN school bus driver arrested for DUI: 23 students on board

Following these incidents, Adams said they implemented random monthly drug screenings and raised pay for drivers who take on more than one route to help prevent future problems.

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