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Tallmadge City Schools Chief Operating Officer Steve Wood says the investigation "is ongoing" into allegations made by a parent Sept. 27 that the bus driver who takes her children to school segregated the students on the bus.
"We are distressed and concerned," said Wood regarding the allegations.
According to Randi Montagu, her 16-year-old son, Tylar, and 11-year-old son, Dakota, ride the same bus. Last Tuesday, she says her older son texted her about 8:45 a.m., saying, "Mom, I don't want to ride the bus anymore." When she asked what prompted that remark, Randi Montagu says Tylar confided the bus driver had segregated the students by skin color seating-wise that morning.
Upon learning of the allegation, Wood reported the bus driver was "immediately" placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
"Any form of discrimination will not be tolerated by the Tallmadge City School District," he said, noting the district has had no previous problem with this bus driver or any other driver.
According to Wood, Tallmadge City Schools contracts its busing through Petermann Bus and Petermann is in charge of hiring its drivers. At press time, Wood described the investigation as "ongoing" and a "joint" undertaking with Petermann.
According to Tylar, when he boarded the bus Sept. 27, he immediately noticed that all the Arabic, Hispanic and African American children were sitting in the front while all the white students were seated in the back. The students usually have assigned seats, according to Randi Montagu.
While the bus driver said nothing to her biracial sons, Randi says Tylar claims the woman stopped his Puerto Rican neighbor as he was heading toward the back of the bus.
"No, your seat's up here. You need to get up here,'" Randi Montagu says Tylar heard the bus driver say.
Tylar took a seat at the back of the bus, telling his mom that decision drew repeated "dirty looks" from the bus driver throughout the ride. Dakota, meanwhile, sat in front.
"I was confused, Mom," Randi Montagu quotes the 11-year-old as saying. "I didn't know what was going on so I just sat with the color of my skin, I just sat with the black kids."
There was no camera on the bus in question, according to Wood. He promised a "thorough investigation," adding, "I don't know how long it will take -- it will take as long as it takes to get to the truth."
There were between 20 and 25 youngsters on the bus at the time of the alleged incident, according to Wood, "and interviewing them is certainly a big part of the investigation."
"The bus drivers work directly with our kids every day, so we take this allegation very seriously," Wood reported. "We have dropped everything to get after this and make sure that our student well being comes first."
"She doesn't deserve to be driving children if she's going to be treating children like this," Randi Montagu told the Tallmadge Express Sept. 29. "She needs to lose her job over this. They (the youngsters) don't deserve to get treated like this from an adult that we trust to take care of our children five days a week."
Twitter: @ EllinWalsh_RPC