Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Salt Lake Granite School District Grovels And Apologizes To Aggrieved Parents And Students Over Alleged "Racist" Remarks By School Bus Driver

Administrators at Salt Lake City's Granite School District apologized Monday to a group of junior high students who claimed a bus driver used racial slurs to address them. Full stories published in the Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret Morning News, and KSL Channel 5.

District Transportation Director Tom Given and Bonneville Junior High School Principal Karl Moody met at the school Monday (October 1st) with the students to apologize for the driver's action. "We assured them that we need them in school. We want them at school. They're valuable to us. We also encouraged them to help us by maintaining order on the bus," Granite spokesman Randy Ripplinger said, adding letters of apology also will be sent home. [Ed. Note: Yes, I'm sure the state's "foundation formula" makes the students "valuable". The higher the enrollment, the more funds they get.]

Later in the day, Sam Pacheco along with seven other parents and their children, and community activist Tony Yapias met in a closed meeting for nearly two hours with Granite Superintendent Stephen Ronnenkamp, and Martin Bates and David Gourley, assistant superintendents. Ripplinger said administrators acknowledge that the incident took place and that disparaging remarks were made.

"After we sift through everything we've heard today, which has been very helpful, we'll make a determination that could include various forms of discipline up to and including termination", Ripplinger said. Once again, the district failed to mention if or how they would intend to hold the students accountable for their misbehavior aboard the bus.

"At this time we just want to let the district finish [its] investigation", Yapias said. "All the parents and the kids feel pleased they had an opportunity to speak and to have a personal apology from the superintendent". However, while the students' parents said they appreciate the apology, they still want to see the driver fired. "What would make him go to a different bus and not say the things that he said in the other bus?", parent Sam Pacheco asked. Nevertheless, even the vengeance-minded Pacheco grudgingly conceded that it was beneficial for the administration to hear the story straight from the kids and for the kids to get an apology.

The district is continuing its investigation into the September 25th incident, described more fully in this post, during which students picked up at Bonneville Junior High in Holladay said a driver called them "brown garbage" and "brown trash". However, although the recording did not capture the driver saying "brown", it did record him yelling "shut up" and "garbage". But all the students on the bus continue to insist they heard him say the racial slurs.

Commentary: A virtual cave-in by the administration. What's being obscured in all this is that the kids misbehaved, and it's being swept under the rug. Note that it is Latinos who are taking the lead in racializing the incident and demanding Talmudic-style vengeance. This is no surprise; while I've met many blacks who aren't racist, the next Latino I meet who isn't racist will be the first.

But while the local elite and the media are trying to cover up the students' misbehavior, most of the community is wise to what's going on. The public has posted 114 comments to the KSL story, nearly all supportive of the driver, and many condemning the students' behavior. Virtually no one wants to see the driver fired.

Those who would like to express more support for the bus driver can consider sending an e-mail to the district superintendent. For additional leverage, send copies of the e-mail to each of the seven members of the Granite Board of Education. I have posted a copy of the e-mail I sent earlier; use it as a guide for your own e-mail. Please keep it civil.

From: deseretdawg@hotmail.com


sarah.meier@granite.k12.ut.us, julene.jolley@granite.k12.ut.us,
terry.bawden@granite.k12.ut.us, connie.burgess@granite.k12.ut.us, carole.cannon@granite.k12.ut.us, gayleen.gandy@granite.k12.ut.us, patricia.sandstrom@granite.k12.ut.us

Subject: Bonneville Jr. High School Bus Incident

Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2007 00:30:01 -0700

Dear Superintendent Ronnenkampf,

Here are several concerns I have regarding the school bus incident involving the Bonneville Jr. High students:

(1). I listened to the audio tape on the KSL website, and I could hear no racial remarks, although I heard a lot of yelling. To make a racial issue out of this without absolute prima facie evidence, based only upon student input, could erroneously inflame the community. I suggest you explore the possibility that the students may have invented the racial charge to minimize their own role and to escape accountability.

(2). According to the media reports, you've exclusively addressed the driver's conduct. There's no published evidence that you plan to hold the misbehaving students accountable. If you do plan to hold the students accountable, you need to disclose this to the media in order to reassure the community.

In reviewing both KSL stories on this incident, public comments in reaction to each story, which number in the hundreds, overwhelmingly support the driver. They recognize the driver acted rashly, but recommend he not be fired. They strongly recommend more robust measures to control student behavior aboard the buses. To fire the driver would give the impression that the Granite School District prefers to impose an alien elitist agenda from the top down rather than to reflect prevailing community standards. It is this perceived disconnect that fuels the voucher movement. To remain credible, public education must reflect prevailing community standards and values first and foremost.

I recommend the driver be reprimanded, and perhaps even a one week suspension without pay would not be out of line. However, to fire the driver on the basis of this one occurrence would create the impression that you were caving in to the demands of a handful of extremists and serving as a proxy enforcer of political correctness. This not only would further fuel the voucher movement, but might tempt the electorate to vote against the next batch of school bonds just to get payback. There should never be an adversarial relationship between a school district and the community it serves.

Thank you for reading this, and I'm confident you will receive the necessary inspiration to make the best decision for all concerned.


{my real name}

If I receive any replies, I'll post them on this blog.

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