A Louisiana bus driver far overstepped her call of duty when she pulled a 16-year-old boy aside and advised him to repent for his sins.
The ACLU of Louisiana this week sent a letter to the East Baton Rouge Parish School System superintendent, the school district’s director of transportation, and the Broadmoor High Schools principal explaining how the anonymous driver singled out and harassed the student (referred to as John Doe).
Last month, when Doe tried to get off the school bus, the driver pulled him aside for a lecture:
“The driver then asked John Doe if he went to church or participated in any church-like activity,” the letter explained. “When John Doe told the driver no, she told him that ‘going to church is how he can avoid sin.’ She proceeded to tell John Doe that homosexuality is a ‘sin’ and that he can go to hell for it.”
John Doe said that the driver warned him that he must “repent” for his “sinful ways” by praying to God, and by going to church. She also reportedly gave him advice on which Bible to get, and which church to attend.
When the driver finally let him leave, Doe told his sister, who reported the incident to Principal Shalonda Simoneaux, who told the students to “call transportation because I’m not her boss.” Eventually the driver was told she couldn’t talk to students about religion or sexuality anymore. (As if there was any question?)
Obviously, as the ACLU made clear in its letter, that’s not enough of a resolution. The bus driver violated Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 by harassing a student on the basis of sexual orientation, as well as the First Amendment Establishment Clause, by proselytizing to a student.
The ACLU, however, said that the district needed to do more by educating all school staff about The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and Title IX’s rules against discrimination. The civil rights advocates also advised schools to have a procedure allowing staff to respond to harassment complaints, and to provide counseling to students if necessary.
“Moreover, the School Board must ensure that John and Jane Doe are not retaliated against for reporting the school bus driver’s inappropriate and harmful behavior,” the ACLU added.
I’m certain that this happens more often than once in a blue moon, and we don’t hear about it for the exact reason the ACLU addressed: students are afraid of administrative retaliation, especially in notoriously homophobic areas. This is true of all harassment, whether it comes from school staff or peers. For example, GLSEN’s latest National School Climate Survey, released last month, found that a majority of LGBT students who face bullying don’t report it:
56.7% of LGBT students who were harassed or assaulted in school did not report the incident to school staff, most commonly because they doubted that effective intervention would occur or the situation could become worse if reported.
61.6% of the students who did report an incident said that school staff did nothing in response.
Any adult who interacts with a student must be trained and educated properly to ensure that targeted, personal attacks like this never happen. Believe what you want on your own time; proselytize to your friends or your family or your cats after work, if that’s your thing. But don’t make a student feel unsafe on his way to and from school because there’s something you don’t like about him.
(Image via Shutterstock)