A White female school bus driver in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, is out of a job after making a racially derogatory statement about the death of George Floyd to an 11-year-old Black sixth-grader.
Speaking to WWL-TV, the mother of the student, Rose Gabriel, said the April 9 incident occurred when the bus driver took issue with 11-year-old Rashad’s facemask not covering his nose when he boarded the bus that morning. When the Trist Middle School student explained it was because he had run out of breath after running to catch the bus, Gabriel said the driver replied: “Since George Floyd, that’s what you all say, but I don’t see a knee on your neck.”
Floyd, 46, lost his life after former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for over nine minutes despite repeatedly telling him he couldn’t breathe. On Tuesday, a jury found Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in the May 25 death of the African-American father.
Other students on board the bus heard the driver’s comment and it was also recorded by the bus’s onboard camera. Gabriel said the incident left her son distraught and she noticed he wasn’t himself when they later met after he alighted from the bus. She said when she asked Rashad what the issue was, he told her the bus driver said something to him that was “racist” and narrated the incident.
“I’m like, ‘Are you sure she said that?’ He said, ‘Yeah, all the kids on the bus heard it,’” Gabriel, who said the incident left her in tears, recalled.
“I just started crying. Because she….excuse me. Don’t make him feel inferior. He’s not inferior to nothing. He’s equal to any of those students on that bus,” she added. “I get chills right now. It hurt me. It hurt me.”
Gabriel told WWL-TV she drove Rashad to school the next Monday to prevent him from coming into contact with the driver and also report the incident. The driver did not deny making the comment when she was confronted and the school’s Superintendent, Doris Voitier reportedly moved to take action.
And though Voitier did not disclose if the bus driver resigned or was fired as it is an employee-related case, she nevertheless condemned her comments. “She no longer works for our school system,” Voitier told the news outlet. “I can’t defend that. I don’t condone that. What she said is offensive and inappropriate. It was racially insensitive. And we took appropriate action.”
Voitier also said she was particularly critical of the bus driver’s comments because she made them while the Derek Chauvin trial was still ongoing.