Police seek man who punched Hamilton County school bus driver with students on board

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / "Hamilton County Schools" is seen on a new school bus at the Hamilton County Department of Education on Wednesday, July 3, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Chattanooga police are investigating after an unidentified man boarded a bus full of Hamilton County Schools students last week and punched the bus driver.

Hamilton County Schools spokesperson Cody Patterson said the schools received a report Oct. 1 of a parent boarding bus 352 and punching the driver. Khaotic Nu, a mother whose son was on the bus at the time of the incident, shared a recording on Facebook of what was happening in the moments before the fight occurred. The video has since been shared more than 100 times.

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In the video, children are shown shouting and yelling, standing up and moving around. Some are cursing. The bus driver can be heard saying, "All right, y'all. Keep this same energy when this person pulls up. Go ahead."

According to Nu's post, the driver had pulled the school bus over at that time because students were misbehaving and he did not want to drive until that behavior stopped.

"When they finally did move they got to a bus stop and a belligerent father decides to climb onto the bus and punch the bus driver for not moving. Because of this fool, the bus was forced to pull over with the remaining children and park to wait for police," she wrote in her post. "I feel sorry for the bus driver. They are doing us a service and shouldn't have to put up with this ridiculousness."

The Chattanooga Police Department was called to the scene and is investigating the matter.

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Police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal said officers could not confirm whether the suspect who boarded the bus was a parent. He has not yet been identified.

"What I can tell you is that when the person boarded the bus, the bus was stopped to let children off," Myzal said. "This male party came onto the bus, yelled at the driver and punched them."

Myzal said security cameras on the bus will be used as part of the investigation. She also said the bus driver intends to prosecute if a suspect is found and identified.

For her part, Nu said her son no longer wants to ride the bus.

"I can't blame him," she said. "I just don't know what to do."

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Patterson said the school district is committed to its bus drivers, their safety and the safety of students who ride school buses to and from school.

"Hamilton County Schools values our bus drivers and appreciates their commitment to safely transporting our students every day," he said.

As school systems nationwide have wrestled to keep schools open amid the pandemic this year, school bus routes have been hit particularly hard, with districts in Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia reporting bus driver shortages since the start of the academic year. Many drivers have had to pick up routes to cover for drivers who are either sick or quarantining, doubling the length of their routes in some cases, leading to long bus rides for students and long waits for parents.

Contact Kelcey Caulder at kcaulder@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.