School district officials in Moorhead are investigating the actions of a bus driver who left 20 middle-schoolers stranded in an industrial park.
The students were kicked off the bus on a cold Tuesday by the bus driver, with reports since emerging that he allegedly used the "n-word" to refer to at least one student and verbally abused others on the bus.
WDAY reports the incident unfolded around 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, when the "fed up" driver told all the students to get off his bus.
One of the students, Deshanna Dotson, told the TV station the driver called her the "n-word" as she got off the bus, with the students reportedly left in an area with no sidewalks as they waited for a replacement bus.
Parents of other kids on the bus said the driver was using a wide range of foul language, with James Van Raden posting on Facebook that his daughter told him he was also flipping students off.
'Driver did the wrong thing'
Moorhead Public Schools is investigating the incident, with Superintendent Lynne Kovash saying the driver – who works for subcontractor Red River Trails – was "fed up," telling Valley News Live he was dealing with misbehaving students at the time.
"The bus driver did the wrong thing, but there were also students that were misbehaving on the bus and we want to have a safe bus ride for all the students," she said.
"Transportation on the bus is a privilege, it is not a right of a student to have transportation on a bus. So one of the things coming out of this is we need to investigate those students that were involved in this."
Debate over school bus behavior
The incident has sparked a debate in western Minnesota over how bus drivers should tackle misbehavior, though the consensus seems to be that the bus driver wildly overreacted.
While Superintendent Kovash suggested it was sparked by some misbehaving students, the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) guidelines on school bus discipline advises drivers to not "threaten the entire bus for the transgressions of the few."
Its guidelines also state drivers should "never put a student off your bus," "never lose your temper" and "never use profanity."
Writing for the Fargo Forum, local radio host Mike McFeely says that the bus driver – who has not been named – and the school district owes every parent an apology.
But, he said, the events of Tuesday raises the question of whether kids who misbehave – as well as their parents – should face some kind of penalty when a stressed driver reaches their limit.
He adds that the case could be made for the district to introduce bus monitors to ensure students are behaving and reduce the onus on drivers for keeping them in check.
But parent James Van Raden doesn't think the misbehavior from a few of students should detract from the irresponsible actions of the bus driver.
"I will not tolerate this kind of passive story to hit the news in essence making it sound like these children were misbehaving," he wrote on Facebook. "Yes, there were a couple that were less than well behaved but the driver's responsibility is to ensure these children were safe from the school to their stops."
"The driver failed to keep MY child safe and the children of other parents and instead put MY CHILD and other children in harms way," he added.