Courtesy of:  Doug Evans, FOX 5 reporter

A Haralson County school bus driver said he was fired from his job because of an angry Facebook post about a hungry child.

Johnny Cook said the middle school student complained that because his lunch money account had run out and cafeteria staff workers at Haralson County Middle School turned him away.

Cook posted his phone number in the after school rant on Facebook and said call him next time, he'd pay to feed any hungry child with no money.

The post quickly spread on Facebook.

Cook says the school system  told him to take down the post and face suspension or he'd be fired. Cook kept the post up and is no longer a bus driver.

"I'm terminated.  But me being terminated doesn't feed the next  kid that walks up in line and doesn't have money," Cook said.

Haralson County Superintendent Brett Stanton  would not comment on the reason Johnny Cook was fired, but he said that the  district has a social media policy against posts that disrupt the system.

Aside from that, Stanton says the lunch  incident never happened. He said that cafeteria workers routinely chip in their  own money to feed hungry kids and that there are policies to make sure every kid  is fed.

"In talking with the middle school  principal and the cafeteria manager, that just did not happen," Stanton said. 

Stanton admitted that the boy's story  would have outraged him as well.

"Well I think from my standpoint -- you've got to have facts and...looking into the situation, the facts don't tell me the child was neglected and turned away," Stanton said.

Cook trains horses for a living and need the job for its insurance benefits.  He said that he believes  the child's story and is contemplating a run for school board.

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Source:  "The School Staffing Surge
Decades of Employment Growth in America's Public Schools - Part II"
               by Benjamin Scafidi, Ph.D. - February 2013

"In the United States, the ratio of students to non-teaching staff is a bit higher than the ratio of students to
teachers, 15.9 versus 15.3, respectively. Those data indicate there are more teachers employed in American public schools than there are other non-teaching personnel. However, that difference has been shrinking for at least 60 years.
Furthermore, 21 states in FY 2009 employed fewer teachers than administrators and other non-teaching personnel.

Georgia is one of those 21 states.

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School bus safety regulations in Georgia
Courtesy of:  Tara Herrschaft

The school bus tragedy in Clay County raises questions about bus safety regulations.  Transportation officials in Lee County say they, along with all other public school systems in Georgia, have to follow strict state guidelines to make sure their precious cargo is safe.

74 Lee County buses run every day, transporting children to and from school. And every 20 work days these buses are rotated into the shop to be examined carefully by a mechanic. 

"We go through that bus from bumper to bumper. We check all lights, all gages, tires, tire rod ends.  We do everything that you possibly can see about that bus and put your hand on and pry to make sure it's working," said Ricky Canterbury, Lee County Schools Director of Transportation.

The mechanic has a checklist he runs through and that paperwork is added to their records.  "Regular X means a mechanic has to look at it and repair it."

Transportation officials say while this is the law for all Georgia school systems, this process also saves lives and money.

"It's a preventive means as well as safety, because if you got $100 part fixing to tear up and you don't see it and when it tears up it takes a $2,000 part with it then we got a problem.  And plus, as I mentioned earlier, we're hauling precious cargo," explains Canterbury.

The state also sends someone with the Department of Driver Services to conduct an assessment at every school system once a year, in addition to random visits. 

"They got the right to come in here during any school year and pick out "x" number of buses random and go through them.  So we know they come one time, but we don't know when they're coming the other times and they can shut you down if you don't," said Canterbury.

This entire process is put in place to prevent tragedies like the one on Tuesday in Clay County.  It's still unknown why that bus crashed, ejecting two 10 year-old girls. One of them was killed, the other remains in the hospital. 

"It's a sad day, because even though this is Lee County, it doesn't matter if it's a north Georgia or south Georgia county.  It breaks my heart to see stuff like that.  And it brings up the question again about seat belts. A seatbelt would have probably saved that little girl," said Canterbury.

One of many questions that remain is unanswered.

"Right now you're safer without them you are with them. Or, from the money end, it would cost us a lot more to do it than it would cost us to lose. But at the same time you can't put a price on a child's life. So we're all a little tore up about what to do," said Canterbury.

Ricky Canterbury says while a seat belt could have saved a life in this case, he believes it's safer not to have them because it makes it easier to evacuate small children if a bus were to catch on fire, or crash into a pond.


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UPDATED (10:27AM):
Officials with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations and Clay County Sheriff's Office confirm that a Pataula Charter Academy school bus was traveling along Highway 93, between Fort Gaines and Blakely, around 4:15 Tuesday afternoon.

Four miles South of Fort Gaines, the bus driver was negotiating a curve, lost control of the bus, went off of the shoulder into a ditch and hit a culvert where it came to a rest. Officers confirm that no drugs or alcohol were consumed nor was the crash the result of the driver using a cell phone.

The bus contained eight passengers, seven students and the driver. Four victims were transported by EMS , two by life flight to Tallahassee Memorial Trauma Center for further treatment. The bus driver is stable, but is still in Pioneer Hospital in Early County. The fatality, a 10-year-old child, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The accident is still under investigation by the Georgia State Patrol Specialized Reconstruction Team, the GBI Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team and the Clay County Sheriff's Office.


Pataula Charter Academy confirms that a bus was traveling along Highway 39 in Clay County, between Fort Gaines and Blakely, when an accident occurred.

Seven students from Pataula Charter Academy were aboard the school bus at the time of the accident.

Multiple people were injured and brought to the hospital for treatment.

Article courtesy of:  The Associated Press

A 10-year-old who died in a south Georgia school bus accident has been identified as Jordyn Doughtie.

Clay County Sheriff Roger Shivers tells WALB-TV ( eight people were injured in the accident Tuesday afternoon near Fort Gaines. Authorities say Doughtie and another girl were sitting near the front of the bus and were ejected during the accident on Highway 39.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. The bus was carrying students from Pataula Charter Academy and grief counselors were slates to visit the school Wednesday.

Fort Gaines is about 55 miles west of Albany, near the Alabama border.

Article courtesy of:  Courtney Highfield @

It’s true that drivers and passengers in regular vehicles are required to wear seatbelts, but the same is not true for those riding in school buses.  Why?

FOX 31 spoke to Carlton Allen the transportation director with the Georgia Department of Education who said currently the state of Georgia does not require school buses to have seat belts. Allen says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted thorough research and studies that showed seat belts wouldn’t actually make the passengers any safer.

Allen says typically when a school bus gets into an accident with another vehicle, the vehicle crashes into the bottom of the bus which is below where the children are sitting. Allen also said in the past 30 years there have only been two fatalities of a student that was inside a traveling bus during an accident. He says the school bus isn’t the problem here. Allen says most of the accidents that have caused student fatalities were because another vehicle failed to yield or stop when the bus does and ended up striking a child.

FOX 31 also spoke with Kenneth Williams, the transportation director with Dougherty County Schools, who said some of their buses actually do require seatbelts. Williams says the smaller buses that carry Pre-K students or special needs students do
have seatbelts and students are required to wear them. Williams says the bigger buses don’t need seat belts because of the way they are made and the way the seats are.

The seats in buses that are referred to as “compartments” are purposefully designed the way they are so students, if they fall forward, will be caught by the seat in front of them.

Although Georgia doesn’t require seat belts in their school buses, there are some states that do. Morris Fuselier is currently the Chief Executive Officer for a school bus transportation agency in California, and used to have the same title for a transportation agency in Texas. Both of these states now require school buses to have seat belts. Fuselier says he believes having seat belts make the bus safer as a whole, but there is still a problem with making sure students actually wear them.

Fuselier says this law was put into place in 2010 and the agencies he’s worked for have encountered one pretty big problem. This problem has to do with the cost. Fuselier didn’t have exact numbers but said a bus with seatbelts is a significant amount more expensive than a bus without. He also said the process of putting seatbelts in older buses is pricey as well. Fuselier said
this is something the state didn’t fund; it came from their own funds. The buses made before 2005 are “grandfathered in” and don’t have to have seat belts put into them which creates a problem itself. Most parents wanted their child to be on the newer buses with the seatbelts, so Fuselier said they’ve pretty much had to create a whole new fleet of school buses.

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TIFTON, GA -- First Update (3/28/13)

Sergeant B.F Williams with the Georgia State Patrol says that the school bus was driving north on Wiley Branch Road when a large dog stopped in the road in front of the bus and wouldn’t move. The bus tried to go around the dog but was too close to a
ditch on the side of the road and the rear of the bus went into the ditch, struck a culvert, and then went airborne. This caused students to rise out of their seats and injure several of them. The bus then drove onto the road to a point of rest and stayed there until a trooper arrived on scene.

According to Carlton Allen, the transportation director with the Georgia Department of Education, only one child stayed overnight at Tift Regional Hospital and was released this morning.

Initial Story (3/27/13)
Georgia State Patrol confirms that a school bus with students ran off of a dirt road this afternoon.

At this time they say multiple students were taken to a hospital and that the incident happened on Wiley Branch Road just before 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.

FOX 31 is working on getting more information on the condition of the students and if any charges will be pressed against the school bus driver.

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Courtesy of:  Holly Pennebaker @

ACWORTH, Ga. -- Cherokee County Sheriff's Deputies are looking for more information on an incident where a man exposed himself to a child near a school bus stop on Thursday in Acworth.

According to Lt. Jay Baker, deputies responded to the Twin Pines subdivision off Kellogg Creek Road around 4:15 that afternoon. Deputies say a man exposed himself to a 10-year-old girl just after she got off her school bus.

On the scene, the child told deputies that after the man exposed himself, he made inappropriate comments to her. The girl then screamed and ran home.

Deputies searched the area, but were unable to find the suspect.  The man is a heavy-set white male with gray and white hair. He was driving an older model white foreign-made sedan.

On the scene, at least two witnesses said they heard the girl scream and saw he suspect's vehicle

Deputies ask anyone with information to call 911.

NOTE:  Another similar incident occurred about a year ago, in the same neighborhood.

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Ta'Miya Watson
Hundreds say farewell to girl struck, killed by Bibb County school bus
Hundreds of people gather at a Macon church Saturday to say farewell to the girl who was killed after being struck by a Bibb County School bus earlier in the week.

Every pew was full and people stood in the back to say good-bye to Ta’Miya La’Shae Watson. The Agnes Barden Elementary student died after the rear tire of a school bus struck her on Bloomfield and Virginia Drive, directly across the street from her school and just feet from the front door of her home.  An accident that the family said is devastating.

“We can try our best to keep our head up and stay strong but you know when someone loses their child, you can't get over that,” Watson’s cousin Darrious Watson said. “That's hard to get over."

Teachers along with family members recalled stories of the young girl’s life. After the ceremony, Watson was buried at Macon Memorial Park.

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