(ATLANTA) — At least seven bus drivers in DeKalb County, Georgia, were fired from their jobs for organizing a three-day “sick out” after they felt their voices were not heard on a variety of topics from fixing potholes to salary and retirement concerns.
The “sick out” is taking place Thursday, Friday and Monday, Eileen Houston-Stewart, chief communications and community relations officer for the DeKalb County School District, told ABC News.
Houston-Stewart said 383 drivers called out sick on Thursday and 224 drivers did so on Friday. She said they will have to provide doctor’s notes because there may be people who were actually sick.
“We will have to make sure we check each and every individual,” Houston-Steward said, adding that the drivers could face reprimands ranging from a warning to termination if their reasoning for being out is deemed inappropriate.
At least seven bus drivers were fired as a result of the “sick out,” specifically for having a hand in organizing or leading it, Houston-Steward said.
Thursday was chaos for the DeKalb County School District after delays reached as high as 90 minutes for students going to and from school, Houston-Stewart said. The district had to have supervisors and directors with bus licenses drive the buses, use their substitute drivers and reach out to other districts to see if they could help.
Dekalb County Superintendent Dr. R. Stephen Green said this type of behavior puts the students at risk.
“To those who opted not to come to work today, you have willingly put our students in harm’s way,” he said in a statement Friday. “This is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”
Green said he met with over 350 drivers who wanted to share their concerns with the district. Drivers are seeking higher pay and better retirement benefits, among other requests.
“We listened. We will continue to listen. And more importantly, we will remain committed to addressing those concerns until we arrive at a solution that is beneficial to all,” Green said in the statement.
A termination letter obtained by ABC affiliate WSB-TV accused a fired driver of “serious dereliction of duty.”
“Moreover, this behavior is … a failure to meet the expectations the district has for its behavior,” the letter signed by Green read. “Due to this behavior, I have elected to terminate your employment with the district, effective immediately.”
The county assured parents that they will work with the students to find time to take their Georgia Milestones assessment exams, which are currently underway.
“There will be no consequences to students scheduled to take the Georgia Milestones and arrive late as a result of bus transportation issues,” a statement on the district website read.
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