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School driver ticketed

COVINGTON - Last week, a special-needs school bus driver for the Newton County School System was issued a traffic citation for speeding in a school zone.

According to the Newton County Sheriff's Office, Enuldrus "E.J." Chandler Jr. of Covington was ticketed for traveling 40 miles per hour in the West Newton Elementary School zone on Brown Bridge Road, where the speed limit is 25 mph.

Sgt. Randy Downs, supervisor of the NCSO traffic unit, said the lights on the speed limit sign were flashing at the time the bus driver was traveling down the road and that the officer issuing the citation was using a laser device.

At the time of the citation, Chandler was traveling in a special-needs school bus with three students.

"We are aware that one of our drivers recently received a traffic ticket, and we are taking appropriate action," said Sherri Viniard, director of public relations for NCSS. "The safety of our students is always our primary concern."

Viniard said Chandler, who has been a bus driver for NCSS since 2006, was suspended for 20 working days without pay as a punishment; she said she isn't aware of any other violations with him since he's been employed with NCSS.

Before returning to work, Chandler must undergo retraining and maintain a current commercial driver's license, Viniard said. Until he returns, a qualified substitute bus driver will handle his bus.

Downs said in the past, traffic deputies have issued speeding citations to school buses.

He said traffic units randomly sit outside of various school zones before and after school every school day to monitor all traffic. Over the past year or two, he said high speed violators in the zones have been reduced as a result of their presence.

He added that officers can issue speeding citations for vehicles traveling 1 mile or more over the posted speed limit in a school zone and that the sign lights do not have to be flashing, as the times of operation are posted on the sign.

News Editor Barbara Knowles contributed to this article.