7 Elizabethton students charged with bus vandalism that halted fleet

John Thompson • Feb 24, 2014 at 10:53 AM

ELIZABETHTON — Seven students of Elizabethton High School, all of them juvenile boys, have been charged with vandalism over $1,000 and criminal conspiracy following an investigation by the Elizabethton Police Department.

The boys' identities were not released because of their ages.

The boys are accused of placing sugar in the fuel tanks of 14 Elizabethton school buses and puncturing seven tires on the buses in the early morning hours of Feb. 3.

As a result of the vandalism, all bus transportation for the Elizabethton City School System was shut down on Feb 3. Students who ride buses had absences and tardiness excused on that day.

For the following two days, school buses were borrowed from Carter County, Washington County, Unicoi County and Johnson City until all Elizabethton buses were brought back on line two days later. Diesel mechanics classes at the Applied College of Technology in Elizabethton helped repair the buses.

Capt. Joy Markland, chief of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Elizabethton Police Department, said the department determined the seven juveniles traveled together to Johnson City on Feb. 3, where they purchased sugar.

Markland said the boys returned to Elizabethton and vandalized the buses at 1:20 a.m.

All the boys were interviewed by the police and provided statements about their participation in the discussion and planning of the vandalism, Markland said.

The school system is still determining the cost of the damage, but it appears to be in excess of $4,000. Restitution will be requested.

The boys will appear in Juvenile Court on the charges in April.

Director of Schools Ed Alexander said the school administration also conducted a disciplinary investigation. He said the disciplinary decisions may be completed Monday.

Alexander said he was pleased with the results of the Elizabethton Police Department investigation. He said the police officers worked diligently on the investigation until the charges were placed.

Alexander said he was also thankful for the support the Elizabethton City School System received during its transportation crisis. He said he can now not only thank the systems but pay them back for the use of the buses.

He said Elizabethton's insurance will pay for rental buses for the time Elizabethton's buses were deadlined. Alexander was not sure of the exact amount of each rental, but said a thank you always is received better when there is a monetary reward along with it. "All the school system's just like ours, are run on a shoestring," Alexander said.

"Mrs. (Rita) Booher (Chairwoman of the Elizabethton City School System) and I went to Erwin Tuesday to thank that board. We will be going to Carter County next Thursday and to Washington County and Johnson City next month to thank them," Alexander said.

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