SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A mother sued Utah school administrators Tuesday, alleging that a school bus driver trapped her son in the door and drove away in a racially motivated incident.
Brenda Mayes said in the lawsuit that bus driver John Naisbitt intentionally closed the door on her son’s backpack as he was getting off the bus in February. He was pinned to the outside of the door as the bus drove down the street for about 175 feet, but the boy wasn’t physically injured. Security footage shows other students waiting to exit the bus behind him struggle to open the door and free him.
Mayes’ son, who is half white and half black, is a seventh-grader at West Point Junior High School in an overwhelmingly white state, her attorney Bob Sykes said.
“My first thought, was ‘I’m glad he didn’t kill him,’” Mayes said during a press conference Tuesday. “I was in disbelief; he was just trying to go to school.”
Other parents of children in West Point, a small city about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City, have told administrators about harassment and discrimination by Naisbitt, with little action taken, the lawsuit said.
Mayes accused the bus driver of not doing anything to stop a white student from physically assaulting a biracial girl on the bus. Her son had to intervene, Mayes said.
Davis County School District spokeswoman Shauna Lund said she could not comment on the lawsuit, but said issues of discrimination are thoroughly investigated.
“We do not tolerate any form of racial discrimination in our schools,” she said.
Naisbitt couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Lund said he no longer works for the district. The lawsuit asserted the school allowed him to retire and did not fire him.
Mayes also said Naisbitt intentionally closed the bus doors on her younger son, a fifth-grade student at West Point Elementary School, in October, along with another biracial student.
Parents of the other student sent administrators photos of the injuries their child had suffered, but school officials “failed to show up or take significant action,” the lawsuit said. Naisbitt continued to drive the same route after the October and February events, Mayes said.
Mayes’ son has been traumatized and the bus driver has created “a hostile educational climate based upon races,” the lawsuit said.
Davis County school district also came under fire in March after a teacher made a 9-year-old student wipe an ash cross off his forehead on Ash Wednesday.