In an apparent protest, hundreds of DeKalb County School District (DCSD) bus drivers called in sick April 19, leaving district officials scrambling for solutions to get students to school.
According to district officials, 383 of the 908 DCSD bus drivers and did not report to work April 19. Officials said the move was tied to a list of concerns bus drivers had expressed to district officials during a March 19 board of education meeting.
According to DCSD Board of Education member Stan Jester’s blog, the sick-out was a coordinated move, with a memo being distributed to drivers a week in advance. According to Green, bus drivers who did not want to participate warned officials two to three days ahead of time, allowing the district to alert parents through a robo-call April 18 and arrange for replacement drivers with assistance from surrounding districts and third-party vendors.
In a press conference at DCSD headquarters April 19, superintendent Stephen Green cited a Georgia law against public employee protests. Georgia law states “no public employee shall promote, encourage, or participate in any strike; provided, however, that no right to collective bargaining currently recognized by law is abridged by this article.”
“For those bus drivers who opted not to come to work today, you have willingly put our students in harm’s way,” Green said. “This is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. Your actions will have consequences.”
Green said some drivers who elected to report to work faced threats from striking drivers, including vehicle vandalization.
Bus drivers raised a variety of concerns at the March 19 board meeting and at a follow-up meeting with district officials April 17. Among the concerns highlighted at the April 17 meeting are a better retirement plan and pay increases.
At the press conference, Green acknowledged a possible need to revisit the bus driver retirement plan, but said the district feels comfortable that base pay is comparable with surrounding districts. He said that bus drivers have received pay raises in recent years of between 2.5 and 3 percent.
District officials have been made aware that the sick-out could extend to April 20 and 23. Green said drivers who choose to extend the sick-out will be required to provide a doctor’s note to validate their absence, and those who call in without a doctor’s note could face “a variety” of repercussions, “from reprimand to termination.”
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