SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – The parent of a West Point Junior High School student has filed a lawsuit against the Davis School District (DSD) for alleged racial discrimination, after an incident involving a bus driver in February.
Brenda Mayes, the parent of a 7th-grade student from West Point Junior High School alleges John Naisbitt, a Davis School District bus driver closed the school bus door on her mixed-race son as he was exiting the bus on February 4th just before 8 a.m.
‘The boy’s backpack was trapped inside the bus, with the boy hanging out of the bus attached to his backpack straps. The bus driver then drove off, leaving the boy hanging, and traveled about 150 to 170 feet, before opening the door. The boy was uninjured but could have been seriously injured or killed had straps broken,’ said Mayes’ attorney Robert Sykes in an e-mail to media.
Legal documents alleged the student was ‘terrified and feared severe and lasting injury for a period of about 20 seconds. Several other students were in line to exit the bus and witnessed Naisbitt’s reckless and malicious behavior.’
“When my son called me that morning, he was shaking and on the verge of tears,” said Mayes in a press conference Tuesday. “I was in disbelief. I couldn’t even comprehend how a driver could do that.”
Mayes and Sykes believes the driver’s actions were intentional.
“You can see him looking over at Child Doe as he’s coming over and as you saw, his hand ready to close. So it was quite intentional. It was not an accident,” said Sykes.
“In the video that I watched, as the driver’s driving, he looks over three times as he’s going forward. So he knew what he was doing,” said Mayes.
Sykes said there had been at least three prior complaints about this bus driver for discriminatory actions taken against other mixed-race students.
“Complaints were made to the schools and DSD administrative personnel, including Mr. Dave Roberts, transportation director,” wrote Sykes. “These complaints were serious but were essentially ignored until the incident of February 4th.”
Sykes and Mayes believe the driver’s and district’s actions ‘put the well-being and safety of mixed-race students at risk. The district’s actions also had the effect of tolerating serious racial discrimination and assault by the bus driver.’
“Davis School District suborned it. They tacitly approved it because they did nothing until this event. If they had done something earlier, this driver wouldn’t have been employed or wouldn’t have been working anymore as a bus driver,” said Sykes.
According to Title VI complaint documents provided by Sykes: ‘Naisbitt had repeatedly acted with racial animus toward mixed-race students prior to the events of February 4, 2019. Roberts was aware of, deliberately indifferent, tacitly approved and/or openly tolerated such conduct on behalf of DSD and himself individually.’
Documents stated Mayes met with school officials to ask for disciplinary actions, but none were taken. She said an anonymous employee told her Naisbitt was eventually forced to retire.
In April, Mayes received and reviewed school bus surveillance footage from February 4 but was upset because she said Naisbitt had been edited out and over-editing had prevented an accurate view of the incident.
Mayes is seeking compensatory damages in amounts to be established at trial.
“I didn’t want to take legal action, I just wanted them to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Something failed. They have a responsibility when I send my kids off to school to make sure they’re safe,”said Mayes.
Shauna Lund, Community Relations Supervisor with Davis School District, sent ABC4 News the following response:
“I cannot comment on the lawsuit itself as the Davis School District has not yet been served. However, when issues of discrimination are raised at any time, they are investigated thoroughly. We take any claims of racial discrimination seriously and do not tolerate any form of racial discrimination in our schools.
“I can confirm the bus driver in question no longer works for Davis School District.”