Comal County ISD has placed a bus driver on administrative leave pending a formal investigation into claims of middle school students being segregated by their race.
Steve Stanford, the district’s spokesperson, told KSAT on Tuesday that officials interviewed the bus driver during their preliminary investigation.
The bus driver told officials, “the assignment of students to specific seats was based on student behavior,” Stanford said.
“If there is evidence gathered that supports an intent other than student behavior for assigning seats, then appropriate disciplinary action will be taken,” Stanford said.
The district said an incident happened on the bus while on the way to the school last Thursday that sparked the seat assignments.
But Danville Middle School students and their parents claim that the bus driver “segregated by color." The claims were made on Facebook in a private community group.
One student said some other students were making loud noises, but she felt discriminated against after the driver handpicked students who were white to get off the bus, while selecting students of color, including herself, to remain on the bus.
“I was just sitting there next to my friend like normal, just being quiet, and the bus driver went down the aisle and told my friend, who is not of color, she could get off,” said one student. “I told her I didn’t do anything wrong, and she just told me to shut up, and she kept going down the aisle.”
The student said the principal later arrived and addressed the students left on the bus about the noise complaint.
“You shouldn’t be hand-selected or handpicked because you are a certain race,” said Latoya Wright, a parent. “Everybody should have been addressed on that bus the same way despite who made those noises or not. Treat everybody the same. This is 2020, come on now.”
On Monday, the seating arrangement went into effect. Multiple students claimed all the students of color were made to sit in the front while other students were sent to the back.
Wright said she was especially disturbed, seeing as though her child wasn’t even on the bus during the initial incident.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover, because my daughter is not one of those kids that make noise and jump around on the bus,” Wright said. “She is normally quiet, and that Thursday, she wasn’t on the bus. “We are in the day and age where you don’t think that you will have to deal with this type of racism, but still today, here we are in 2020 going through the same thing we were going through in 1952.”
Students came home upset about the incident, and many of them spoke to the school’s counselor about the issue, according to the Facebook posts.
Other parents said they filed complaints against the bus driver weeks ago for the driver’s treatment of the students.
“Whether she is aware of how she made these students feel or not, I think it is not anything anyone should have to tolerate,” said Georgia Henderson, another parent. “I know my daughter. She is articulate. She is very respectful. If she felt racism, I trust her.”
Comal ISD Superintendent Andrew Kim released a statement about the allegations Tuesday.
“During our preliminary investigation, it was stated by the driver that the assignment of seats was based on student behavior,” Kim said. “However, we are fully aware of how this incident has been perceived by students who ride bus 420 and their parents.”
Kim said he would not tolerate any discriminatory behavior and that dismissal is possible if the investigation finds evidence that the driver segregated students based on race.