BY ALEXANDER WILLIS
The Williamson County School Board unanimously passed a resolution Monday night that will exempt honorably discharged military veterans, reservists and National Guard members from the minimum age requirement to become a school bus driver, which is 25 years old.
The Tennessee General Assembly, the governing state legislature of Tennessee, enacted laws effective January 1 of this year that raised the minimum age to be a school bus driver to 25, following in the wake of the 2016 deadly school bus crash in Chattanooga that resulted in the death of six children.
The new policy will also potentially help with Williamson County Schools’ bus driver shortage it has been struggling with as of late. With more than 40,000 students registered in schools in Williamson County, the district’s current number of 240 bus drivers is causing delays and further difficulties getting children and teens to school.
“Considering the number of bus drivers that we are always short, it occurred to us that we have people that have served in the military, [who] drive tanks and heavy equipment all day long in a safe way, and they could not come and be a bus driver,” Superintendent Mike Looney said during the board meeting. “That just doesn’t make sense to us. I think this is a homerun hit for this board.”
Looney, who is a veteran himself of the United States Marine Corps, said he came up with the proposal after thinking back to his military days.
“One of the things that’s often missing in the world that we live in is just common sense,” Looney said. “As the state changed the age limit for bus drivers, and me being a veteran, I’m thinking I knew all kinds of people that were in the service who drove large buses, tanks, heavy equipment… it just seems like a good common sense approach to solving complex problems.”
The next meeting of Williamson County Schools staff will be the School Board Policy Committee meeting on October 1, held at the Williamson County Administration Building at 1320 West Main St., Franklin, TN 37064.