Parent: Bus driver joined in name-calling

Published 9:31 pm Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A bus driver has been reassigned to a different route after a Suffolk Public Schools investigation into claims she had joined other students in calling one student “Osama,” district spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw says.

In an email to the district’s director of secondary leadership, Douglas Dohey, parent Deanie Robertson said her Forest Glen Middle School student Thomas told her that his bus driver, along with other students on the bus, had been calling him the offensive name.

Robertson said she questioned her son after an alleged incident on the bus Jan. 26. It started after one student said, “Let’s jump Osama,” and began to “play fight” with Thomas, according to Robertson.

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The alleged incident escalated when another student jumped on Thomas’ back and he threw that student off, according to Robertson, who believes the bus driver did not deal with the situation appropriately.

Her son’s report that the bus driver had joined in the name-calling “added to my concerns that not only had the bus driver allowed the children on the bus to call my son an extremely derogatory name, she too participated in it,” Robertson wrote Dohey.

“Considering the current atmosphere and high global concern about terrorism and a man named Osama who was hunted down and killed because of his atrocious acts of violence against others, I believe that an adult, joining in on carrying on this sort of name calling, to be very serious,” she continued.

After first speaking to others in the school system, Robertson said she eventually had a phone conversation with Dohey, who she said acted professionally, according to her email.

But when the same bus driver was behind the wheel the next morning, the Robertsons decided to begin driving Thomas to and from school.

“My opinion remains that this driver should lose her job as a result of her actions,” Robertson wrote. “She not only allowed the name calling by other students to continue for five months, but she too engaged in the bullying.”

In a Jan. 28 email, Dohey apologized to Robertson on behalf of the division and said a different driver would transport the students starting the next day. Earlier that day, he had emailed to notify her of an investigation by Forest Glen administration and the transportation department, assisted by human resources.

According to WAVY-TV, which ran the story the next day, their reporter interviewed Dohey just after the first email to Robertson.

Bradshaw denies any link: “Contrary to what TV-10 believes, the timing of when the driver was reassigned to a different route did not have anything to do with the TV reporter’s inquiry. It was a coincidence.”

No further comment could be made on the alleged incident or the investigation, “because this is a personnel matter,” and “possible student discipline actions is also confidential,” she added.

“Suffolk Public Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, or gender in its programs and activities,” Bradshaw stated.

“In addition, the division expects every employee and student to respect all individuals, and to refrain from bullying and harassment regarding another person’s race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, or gender.”

Robertson said her son seemed happy after the new driver was installed. “On Thursday morning he (Thomas) happily got on the bus with the new driver and came home as happy as can be,” she said.