A Louisiana school district is investigating complaints that a White school bus driver ordered nine Black children to sit at the back of the bus.
Last week, the Red River School Board met with the parents of the students involved in the incident to inform them that the bus driver was suspended without pay, and results of the district’s investigation would be announced at a school board meeting on Sept. 5.
Iva Richmond, whose 14- and 15-year-old children were on the bus, told The Associated Press that they previously had a Black bus driver, but their bus assignment changed this year. When school started this month, the White driver told them she had assigned them seats, with the Black children seated at the back of the bus.
Richmond said she complained to a local principal, who told the driver that if any children were assigned to seats, all would have to be.
Early last week, the driver assigned Black students to two seats in the back of the bus, an arrangement that had some of the smaller children sitting in the laps of older children.
“All nine children were assigned to two seats in the back of the bus and the older ones had to hold the smaller ones in their laps,” Richmond said.
Kay Easley, superintendent of the Red River Parish School System, issued a statement saying the bus driver was confronted about the situation.
“The seat assignments were the result of problems with implementation of a seating chart… and not an attempt by her to segregate the students on the basis of race,” Easley said. “Regardless of the cause for the action, however, it cannot be tolerated.”
Louisiana State Superintendent of Education Cecil J. Picard did not want to comment on the case while it was under investigation.
“However, I can say that I hope that it didn’t happen,” he said in a statement to Diverse. “I could never condone such behavior by anyone associated with our schools. People in this state should be well past these issues, and I can’t express strongly enough that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) also is considering filing a formal charge with the U.S. Department of Justice. NAACP district vice president James Panell said he was considering asking for an investigation into the bus incident and other aspects of the school system’s operations.
“It is extremely alarming,” he told The Shreveport Times. “We fought that battle 50 years ago, and we won. Why is this happening again?”
— Diverse staff and wire reports
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