A Georgia school bus driver, Carole Etheridge, was arrested on Monday for allegedly driving drunk with 31 students on board, according to WSBTV. School officials say that one of the children on the bus noticed the driver’s erratic driving and immediately notified their parent, fearing that something was wrong.
When Etheridge, of Dacula, arrived at Loganville Middle School, she was greeted by Walton County Police officers. After failing a field sobriety test, the school bus driver was arrested and charged with 16 counts of child endangerment and DUI.
According to Walton schools spokeswoman Callen Moore, there were 31 students on board and 16 of them were under the age of 14.
Keith Brooks, chief deputy with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, stated that “if my child were on that bus and he was 15, I would think this law would apply to him, but obviously the code section only allows us to charge them if they were under the age of 14.”
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office stated that officers found four small, open bottles of vodka and four bottles of prescription pills inside the school bus driver’s purse.
It was not immediately made clear if the school bus driver had her purse on the bus while she was driving with 31 students on board or if it was at another location. But school officials say that Etheridge was fired from her position the same day, and another school bus driver was called in to finish her route.
School records indicate that Etheridge had been a bus driver for Walton County since March of this year after passing a background check with a clean driving record. It was also noted that she is a former bus driver in Gwinnett County, but she was fired in January for “unsatisfactory performance.”
Parents were outraged after learning that a school bus driver was driving under the influence with their children on board. Some say Etheridge should be punished for putting the kids at risk.
“Jail time. A lot of jail time,” said one parent, Aimee Elmore. “That’s putting the lives of our kids in danger and anybody else on the road.”
School officials are praising the student who alerted their parent after noticing the school bus driver’s erratic driving.
Two hours after the school bus driver was arrested on DUI charges and endangering children, she was released on a $25,762 bond. When reporters visited Etheridge’s home to get her side of the story, she refused to come to the door.
Officials with the Walton County jail stated that Etheridge’s charges were written as citations; therefore, there will be no first court appearance as a warrant has not been issued.
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