Black Students Forced to the Back of the School Bus

Photo:  Javier Renes (Shutterstock)
Photo: Javier Renes (Shutterstock)

Three Black Waukee high school students were forced to ride in the back of a school bus on their way home from their band trip last year, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. The incident followed an alleged assault instigated by two white chaperones. In a recently filed lawsuit, one student claims the school district’s investigation was hyper-focused on the students’ role in the incident.

In September of 2021, students of Northwest High School were coming from a marching band competition in Omaha, according to a statement from Jerry Foxhoven, an attorney representing former student Bailey Hilson. The statement alleges a chaperone was angry with a group of students for leaving the award ceremony early. Foxhoven claimed they already got permission to head out. However, the chaperone excused the white students from the bus and cornered the remaining Black students with another white parent chaperone.

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After this point, a heated exchange erupted and the chaperones were accused of grabbing the students’ arms to prevent them from leaving, poking them in the forehead and getting in their faces. After the band instructor and music teacher got involved, the students asked to be moved from the bus so they wouldn’t have to ride home with the Karens they just spouted with.

Instead, Foxhoven claims the students were sent to ride the back of the bus by their instructors, away from the chaperones.

More about the situation from Iowa Capital Dispatch:

The lawsuit alleges that a school district investigation into the incident was too focused on the students’ conduct and that the district’s actions thereafter did not adequately address — and perhaps exacerbated — the emotional distress of Hilson.

Assistant Principal Christie Pitts conducted the investigation and concluded that the parent volunteer had grabbed or touched two students, and someone at the district notified the Waukee Police Department of the alleged physical contact.

The woman was barred from volunteering at the high school and from attending at least one home football game, according to Foxhoven’s letter. The district further pledged to have a “restorative conversation” with the students and to reevaluate the requirements for its parent volunteers. It sent a message to band students and their families that said “the students involved were not at fault.”

Despite Waukee Community School District’s investigation lining up with most of Foxhoven’s recount of the incident, the suit claims the report was a “sham” because it completely ignored the racist undertones of the incident itself.

“This mature and reasonable request was denied, and the three Black students were instructed to ‘sit in the back of the bus’ and not interact with the adults on the way home. This direction … created a pathetic scene reminiscent of our nation’s history of segregation in public transportation. The students, left with no other choice, followed instructions,” said Foxhoven via Iowa Capital Dispatch.

Hilson is seeking damages for the suffering she endured as a result of the incident - which she says soiled her senior year. The district hasn’t yet responded to the filing.

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