School District Settles After Biracial Student Dragged by School Bus
published on October 07, 2019 by Sonia Mastros
Most of the time, when a bus driver does something that endangers students, it's due to poor judgement. Occasionally, however, it can be malicious - as we saw earlier this year in Farmington, Utah. In a deeply disturbing incident, a 14-year-old biracial child was dragged by the bus for approximately 175 feet, after the 78-year-old driver closed the door on his backpack, trapping him outside.
Fortunately, the child was unharmed. However, the district ultimately settled for over $60,000 to prevent legal action, and the driver resigned three days after the incident to avoid firing. Beyond this incident, the driver had received several other claims of racial discrimination, including that he had insulted students, and allowed white children to bully an Asian child on his bus without intervening.
For the record, the driver claims he was "framed" by the child, and when asked if he was racist, he denied it - by pointing out that his dog is black.
So, what can a district do to prevent similar racially-motivated incidents?
Keeping Racism Off Your School Bus Transportation System
1. Install Video Cameras
There is no better way to oversee what happens on your school bus fleet than to install cameras on every bus. Yes, this can be expensive - but think of it as insurance. "He said / she said" scenarios become almost impossible when there's objective video evidence of what happened on every route. Conflicts between children, drivers, or parents can be much more easily resolved.
And, in cases like this, where there had been reports of the driver exhibiting racist behavior, cameras could have verified those claims quickly.
2. Always Follow-Up on Credible Accusations
There isn't enough detail in public reporting to know how the district responded to prior accusations of bias in the driver, but considering that several separate incidents had been reported, there was clearly a pattern. It seems a bit hard to believe the district had actually followed up on the accusations, although it is possible.
Either way, districts should not look the other way in situations like this. Accusations of racially-motivated discrimination in the school bus transportation system always need to be investigated.
3. Hold Occasional Sensitivity Seminars
Of course, not all racism is deliberate, and sometimes a driver - particularly an older one - may use terminology which was once acceptable but has fallen out of favor. After all, the vocabulary surrounding such matters has changed very rapidly in recent years! So, having the occasional seminar on racial language and sensitivity can help prevent any misunderstandings which could be mistaken for racism.
So, what do you think? How would your district have responded to multiple reports of racist behavior in a driver? Let's talk about it below.