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School bus driver faces charges

By Richard Rourk

A Unicoi County Schools bus driver has been arrested and charged with aggravated assault and child neglect after three children were reportedly injured while riding a school bus.

Bus driver James Sage has been suspended following the charges placed on Friday, March 18, by the Erwin Police Department.

“We are aware of the charges and have placed Mr. Sage on unpaid suspension when we learned of the accusations,” said Unicoi County Schools Director John English. 

“We take these charges very seriously,” English added. “We have been in contact with the Erwin Police Department and will continue to follow this investigation. Following due process, we will make a final decision about Mr. Sage’s future.”

Sage, who started driving with Unicoi County Schools this past fall, is accused of driving too fast when he drove over a speed bump on Okolona Drive, reportedly sending several children from their seats. 

“We understand that there were several students that reported that Mr. Sage drove erratically over some speed bumps,” English said.

English confirmed that three students did seek medical attention following the incident. 

“We have spoken to all three students and their families,” English said. “All three students are back home and doing well. Safety is our number one concern and we are so thankful that the students are doing better.”

English and Unicoi County Schools Transportation Director Chris Bogart expressed appreciation for the concern that they have seen from the community following the incident. “We have heard from many and encourage the feedback,” English said. “We take accusations seriously and encourage anybody that sees something to make a formal complaint to either myself or Dr. Bogart. I encourage any concerned parents that would like to help out to consider driving for Unicoi County Schools. We could always use more qualified drivers.”

Despite the incident with Sage, English commended  other county bus drivers.

“It’s a thankless job,” English said. “It’s not easy. The drivers are under a microscope and take on a huge responsibility to get children home safe. We have some of the best, most dedicated drivers around and we appreciate them. I hope incidents like these don’t discourage the many amazing drivers we have here in Unicoi County.”

Sage was charged with three counts of reckless aggravated assault, two counts of child neglect/endangerment and 14 counts of reckless endangerment. He is being held on a $75,000 bond.