Crosby Middle School student called a contradiction for having lesbian parents. Kentucky Equality Federation seeks action

Kentucky Equality Federation today called for the termination or route change for Jefferson County School Bus Driver Ronell Mattingly and an official apology from Crosby Middle School Assistant Principal Angela Allen.

“The issue centers on the suspension of the child from the bus simply because she was offended when others on the bus were making fun of gay and lesbian people. When she brought this to the attention of bus driver, the driver thought it was humorous and told the child she was a ‘contradiction‘ according to the report filed with our organization,” stated Rick Wolfe, spokesman for Kentucky Equality Federation’s Discrimination, Hate Crimes, and School Bullying Committee, and special adviser to the president for youth and discrimination. “As a result of the child bringing it to the attention of the bus driver, she was suspended for a three (3) day period. The fact that the bus driver called her a ‘contradiction’ because she was the child of a lesbian couple, in addition to the way the school handled the situation is a serious problem.”

According to the parents of the child, on March 31, 2010 the school bus driver told the child she was a “contradiction,” because she has same-sex lesbian parents and has been subsequently and continuously punished for calling the bus driver a ‘jerk’ because of her remark.

“The fact that anyone still feels they have the right to make judgment calls regarding other peoples life choices is the reason that organizations like Kentucky Equality Federation and COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) exist,” stated Julia Oiler Spiegel, Coordinator of the COLAGE Kentucky Chapter, and Kentucky Equality Federation’s Children of LGBTI Parents Outreach Director. The Kentucky Chapter of COLAGE is also a member of the Commonwealth Coalition. “As a parent, lesbian or straight, I would question the safety of my child while being chaperoned by this bus driver. I cannot help but wonder the drivers response if a child reported being bullied, harassed or assaulted while riding this bus. I commend this child for her willingness to defend her family unit, however that may be defined.”

According to the parents, children on the school bus were joking about gay and lesbian people. This offended the twelve year old child and brought it to the attention of the school bus driver. The school bus driver asked the child to have her parents call her, the parents did and the school bus driver allegedly repeated the statement to one of the parents, Evon Reeves.

Evon Reeves statement: “My daughter who rides the school bus to and from school, recently there were some comments made on the bus regarding gays, my daughter said that word offended her because her mom was gay; the bus driver laughed and replied ‘that’s a contradiction.’ Being 12 years old at the time, she did not know what that meant; my daughter did ask her what that meant and the bus driver ignored her. My daughter did get smart with her which I am not condoning at all and her punishment was suspension off the bus for 3 days and she was suppose to write a letter. The day this happened, my daughter called me at work told me what happened and I really could not believe an adult would say something so absurd.

I called the Blankenbaker Bus Depot like the bus driver had told my daughter to ask me to do; the bus driver returned my call later that night and said the same exact thing to me, which showed me what mentality she actually had. The next day the driver made her sit in back of the bus with High School Students, and would not let any of her friends turn around and talk to her.

I did not receive a call the from school until 3 days later, when I and spoke to Assistant Principal Angela Allen, she stated my daughter had been suspended off bus due to being ‘smart.’

Mattingly wanted a written apology which my partner and I didn’t agree with; Assistant Principal Angela Allen stated my daughter should simply ignore such comments and grow some thicker skin. I reiterated that the comments were made to my 12 year old child, from an adult. My daughter has enough to deal with such as peer pressure, growing up, homework, etc. and should not be subject to bigotry from a school bus driver who is suppose to be driving the bus and protecting children, not arguing with a child.

When my daughter returned to school, the driver made her sit in back of the bus with High School Students, and would not allow any of her friends to turn around and talk to her. After that I did not let my daughter ride the bus until April 22, 2010.

When my daughter started to get off the bus the driver stood up in front of her and asked for her apology letter. My daughter told her that her family made the decision that she didn’t have to write it, then; the driver then aggressively held the referral in her face and stated ‘this says you do.’ My daughter explained again she was told not to apologize. The driver then stated she was going to give another referral and hoped she got suspend from the bus for the rest of the year. She has not ridden the bus sense.

The parents turned to Kentucky Equality Federation for assistance after being stonewalled by the school, as well as the Jefferson County Board of Education’s Transportation Office, who has refused to listen to the parents. The child still isn’t riding the school bus because she is now also afraid of the driver.

“The audacity of a school bus driver to say such a thing to a child is appalling and shows the bigotry gay and lesbian parents face,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. “The school bus driver has authority over the bus, and should have asked the students making derogatory comments about gay and lesbian people to stop, or they should have been the ones punished; had comments been made about any other minority group, I believe this situation would have been handled in a completely different manner.” Palmer continued, “The school certainly is not giving ‘an environment that fosters self-discipline and self direction’ as stated on their website.”

Reeves continued: “We have moved beyond ‘some type of disciplinary action,’ or a simple don’t let it happen again. My daughter cannot ride the bus because she feels threatened by the bus driver who made her sit in the very back of the bus with high school students after this happened. I want them know they can’t make such statements. I want them to know they cannot do that to my child, or any other child.”

Kentucky Equality Federation will be filing official complaints with Louisville’s representation in the Kentucky House of Representatives, in addition to the Commonwealth’s Acting Secretary of Education, Joseph U. Meyer, the Kentucky Department of Education, and the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board.

19 thoughts on “Crosby Middle School student called a contradiction for having lesbian parents. Kentucky Equality Federation seeks action”

  1. Sue?
    You know I remember this happening at a school in Somerset to a child. The parents sued and won. If the school is not taking this matter seriously then maybe the parents should hit them where it hurts there pocket books. Subjecting a child to abuse of that nature at a young age is harmful in so many ways, the fact that this abuse was done by an adult who is charged with protecting the child is worse.

  2. Bigots today target children instead of adults
    This day and age, and I hate to say this, but people who DO NOT approve what they hear or see they will act out on the children instead of the adults. Why? Because bigots think its easy to say that to a child and people would think they are lying. These people dont want to say that to an adult because that would cause a lawsuit, so they do the next best thing, go after the child. And its sick. I'm a parent of two and I'm a lesbian. If something like this would happen to my kids, I would make sure the bus driver is fired, not take sensitivity classes, because in the past I have seen that does not work at all. And for the Asssisted Principle should recieve be suspened without pay, due to an investigation. Parents are responsible for their kids when they talk bad about people. They are just listening to what their parents say or do, which makes the children think its ok if mom and dad does it so its ok for me. Take time out with your kids and tell them that there are differnet people in this world, thats what makes people unique and this world unique. Saying bad things about someones family or themselves hurts them and makes them feel sad. If a parent would just say those words to a their kids, kids wouldn't be bulling kids and maybe our future would be better for it too.

  3. Unacceptable
    Bullying in any shape or form is unacceptable. This child as being bullied with words. No action was taken against the kids on the bus. The comment about "thick skin" also appears to be someone brushing off their responsibilities. The assistant principal, it appears, did not want to do her job.

    I wrote a letter to the principal today as I am horrified after reading this.

  4. Action?
    I've written the assistant principal in question, and the principal as well. Hopefully they have the decency and professionalism to reply… this is disgusting.

  5. Wow @Joe im really glad that im not your kid and i feel bad for your kids. I hope that in the future they make it a law that people who want to be parents have to go through parenting classes. Cause the world could do without parents like you. That child is only twelve how old do you think the bus driver and the Assistant Principal is? Children are teased enough but now even the teachers and bus driver are being bullies. School should be a place where a child feels safe. If someone with a position such as a teacher or principal is going to harass a student then why are they even there? Maybe you should be less of a bigot and more understanding. Something should have been done about this in the first place.

  6. Outraged
    As a teacher, I am outraged on how this school district chose to treat on of its students. If I were the superintendent, that bus driver would have been suspended without pay and made to take sensitivity classes before being re-assigned. The assistant principal is just as culpable. How can you run a school where bullying, hatred and bigotry is acceptable?

  7. This child has been bullied!
    This child has been bullied by her peers, the bus driver, and her school administrators! An earlier comment mentioned that adults cannot control what other students say. This is true to a point.

    But, as adults they are expected to protect ALL students from bullying. It seems to me that the bus driver and the administrators involved should be required to attend training on bullying and how to deal with it. Telling a 12-year-old to "grow a thicker skin" is outrageous!

    Bullying involves much more than physical threats. In fact, I think emotional bullying is even more hurtful because it is often "invisible" and nothing is done about it.

    I hope the girl's parents follow through and take steps to protect their daughter from further harm. Seems to me they should insist the district pay for a taxi to take their daughter to and from school!

  8. WOW
    I am constantly amazed… I taught in the pubic school system for four years. That was enough. I loved what I did- when it was good it was great, when it was bad it was downright dangerous. I understand that kids run their mouths and make unintelligent comments… and hopefully they will realize, with time and experience that they were wrong. This bus driver seems to have not learned their lesson. When a child feels threatened- physically or otherwise- they SHOULD be able to go to a trustworthy adult who can help them deal with the situation. As I see it, the apologies should go all around. The kids should apologize for making comments that were derogatory to the child. The driver should apologize for being ineffective as a trusted guardian, and again for putting their two cents in where it didn't belong. The child should apologize for being disrespectful to the driver, even if the driver was in the wrong (all children should be taught respect, and the proper channels to go through if they feel they have been disrespected in return). The Assistant Principal should apologize for making a disturbing situation into a molehill. That girl went to her for help and guidance and ended up with a suspension! WOW! Finally, the department should apologize for allowing a discriminatory comment to be made by one of their employees, and for dropping the ball on the whole issue. To the little girl: I think your skin is tough enough! God Bless!

  9. Were people home schooled?
    As a teacher I find it unbelievable that people believe the school system can control comments students make to other students. We can put in policies to discourage the behavior, we can have seminars and sensitivity training for staff and students, and we can address any language we hear. Schools however can never stop all language. They are kids. They don't do their homework, they argue and yell at each other and adults, they get into fights, they steal, they trip each other in the halls, and they say innappropriate things to each other. You will never, ever, never stop that. You can only hope to control and minimize it. Thus, you better get thicker skin is some great advice. The average person probably gets insluted 10k times growing up. But somehow when the insult creeps into gender, or sexuality, or race we get bent all out of shape. We can only correct and educate. We can never stop it.

    I would be much more concerned that students that physically abuse other students and fail every course they take are allowed to stay enrolled then if a student says the wrong thing. If their language is inappropriate I can teach and help the child learn. If they are physically violent and don't want to be in school I can't do much with them, expect try to keep other students as safe as possible. Lake of effort and violence to me is a far greater concern in schools.

  10. As a former teacher, we were taught to alleviate or end ALL negative comments against others. It is a form of bullying, and I believe that Kentucky now has legislation that restricts bullying in the schools…I do believe that the bus is part of the school system and the assistant principal definitely is!!!!

  11. I think it is crazy that the 12 year old was suspended. Why does this bus driver still have a job? What happens when the bus driver doesn't agree with someone else. I wonder if they would prefer the blacks to sit in the back again?

  12. More should be done to the bus driver than putting her on another route. She is obviously not equipped to be around all children, and is a bigot. She should be suspended for 3 days. What is this world coming to when you cannot even rely on the school bus driver to behave like an adult.

  13. Jessica Nightingale

    How can they suspend this girl for calling the bus driver a "jerk" but not suspend the other students for using hateful language. Maybe the bus driver needs to grow "Thicker skin"

  14. Suspended for calling the bus driver a jerk yet told to grow thicker skin about homophobic comments? Tell the busdriver to grow thicker skin!

  15. To Tamra: I asked the bus driver the same thing "What do you mean by contradiction" The bus driver said that " you cant be a mother and be gay, you have to be with a man to be a mother" That is why this is insulting.

  16. What does she mean by contradiction?
    Saying the girl was a contradiction doesn't really seem to be an insult in the context of the situation…

  17. The Kentucky Equality Federation has reported that a bus driver within your school system, Ronell Mattingly, willingly made fun of a 12-year-old student at Crosby Middle School for having two lesbian moms.

    The student, who asked the bus driver to tell students on the bus to stop using homophobic language, was told by Mattingly that she was a "contradiction." Subsequently, she was forced to sit at the back of the bus in silence, away from her friends.

    In the wake of this incident, Assistant Principal Allen contacted the parents of this student, to communicate the situation and to explain that Crosby Middle School was suspending this 12-year-old student for three days from the bus. When the parent tried to explain to Assistant Principal Allen that her 12-year-old daughter was trying to confront homophobia on the bus, Assistant Principal Allen told the parent that this student just needed to suck it up and "grow some thicker skin."

    That comment is wholly inappropriate. Homophobic language should never be ignored. Confronting homophobia is not about thick skin or thin skin; it's about standing up whenever someone is making fun of gay people. That's what this student was trying to do, and frankly, her bus driver and Assistant Principal Allen failed her. In this situation, you are not providing for the safety of all of your students.

    The Kentucky Equality Federation is now filing a complaint with local authorities. Meanwhile, the parents involved have asked for an apology from Crosby Middle School, and for the bus driver in question to be reassigned, since this 12-year-old student no longer feels safe riding this bus.

    I support this call, and urge you to apologize to this student and her parents, and reassign the bus driver. Crosby Middle School should be in the business of making sure all of its students are safe. You now need to take action to fix this situation, and to make sure all of your students — regardless of the sexual orientation of their parents — are safe within your school.

    Thank you for your time.

  18. As a person familiar with how jefferson county public schools work. 1st – the school has 0% input into anything that a bus driver does. EVERYTHING is controlled by the district. The school should in no way be held responsible for the actions of a bus driver. Please direct your attention to the district. They do all of the hiring, disciplining, assigning of routes, and terminations. 2 – according to the facts of the story the student was suspended for innapropriate behavior towards a bus driver. I do not see a problem with this suspension. It is important to teach children that anti-social behavior is not acceptable just because someone says something to you.

    3- The article does not describe in what context the vice-principal said "you should get thicker skin." Given context this seems like a perfectly normal thing to tell a child and something I remind my kids of frequently. Don't let the world bring you down son, you gotta rise above. Doens't mean you can't get mad or take some type of actioni, but you need to channel that anger and respond appropriatly. If that was the crux of the message then I find the comment perfectly acceptable.

    4 – watch south park, "gay" is not used in the way that adults often think it is. Afterall gay used to mean happy. I think we are in another transition as to the meaning of the word gay. I assure you that middle school students are capable of far more vile insults if they want to disparage your parents.

    5 – please allow the investigation to be completed before drawing conclusions and making assumptions.

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