CLEVELAND, TN (WRCB) - A local school system says rowdy students are making it hard to keep the bus ride safe. It's also making it hard to keep drivers.
Officials with Cleveland City Schools say it's a serious safety issue when students act up on the bus, because that forces the driver to focus more on the rear view mirror than the road.
"Imagine as a parent trying to control three kids in the back seat, and you have 60 kids in the back seat and obviously sometimes they get a little rambunctious," Director of Cleveland City Schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff says.
Dr. Ringstaff knows misbehavior on buses is not unique to Cleveland City Schools, but admits the way they address it has been inconsistent.
"We do not want a bus accident because of student behavior," Dr. Ringstaff says.
"We haven't had a very clear cut policy on what we will tolerate in behavior and not tolerate," Cleveland City Schools Supervisor of Transportation and Maintenance says.
It has some drivers walking away from their jobs.
One recently quit after several students did the "Harlem Shake" while going down the road, refusing to sit. That driver isn't the only one to express concern.
"We've had other drivers basically say if they can't keep the bus under control, if I can't do this safely, I won't drive," Taylor says.
Of the 19 bus drivers currently on staff, 15 have been there less than three years.
"We want to protect our bus drivers and we want them to know that we're standing behind them 100%," Dr. Ringstaff says.
They're putting a new discipline procedure into place that's modeled after Hamilton County's to give students consequences. With each offense, there's a stricter penalty, starting with warnings, up to being suspended from the bus for the rest of the school year.
"Transportation is a privilege. It's not something you have to provide," Taylor says.
They plan to cut down on the time students are on the bus by using new routing software and buying two more buses. They'll offer more training for drivers and start combining middle schoolers, the majority of the problem, with high schoolers. That's a method proving to work as schools across the country deal with the same issue.
"Middle schoolers look up to them, I guess, and they tend to act better because of it," Taylor says.
Officials say the majority of kids are behaving on the buses, but say it only takes a few to jeopardize everyone's safety on the road.
The school board voted in favor of the new procedure, so it will go into effect at the beginning of next school year.
Cleveland City school officials say as they've researched other schools dealing with this problem nation-wide.
They've also seen some hiring bus monitors or assigning teachers to ride on the bus.
They say they're keeping that option open for the future, but are confident the steps they're taking now will be enough to make a difference.