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.