Morgan County school bus driver caught on video pushing two young children

Update: The Morgan County Board of Education (BOE) voted unanimously to terminate James O’Neil, a bus driver with the Morgan County Charter School System since 2020, after reviewing videos that show O’Neil repeatedly pushing a six-year-old boy and then pushing the boy’s 10-year-old sister when she tried to intervene.

Previous story: “My children are afraid to ride the school bus ever again after this,” said Nene Carter, the mother of two young children who were pushed by a Morgan County bus driver during a dispute on the ride home last Friday, Sept. 9.

Another student who witnessed the incident filmed a video that was eventually uploaded to Facebook and began circulating on social media. The video shows a male bus driver pushing a six-year-old boy repeatedly before pushing the boy’s 10-year-old sister who tried to verbally intervene.

The video garnered more than 750 comments and more than 2,600 shares as of press time on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

The 12-second video shows the bus driver standing over the small child while pushing the boy back into his seat near the front of the bus. The 10-year-old sister is standing next to the bus driver trying to reach out for her brother. The girl shouts, “Stop pushing my brother,” as the bus driver is seen repeatedly pushing the crying boy back into the seat.

“Shut your mouth,” the bus driver says to the girl as he continues pushing the little boy.

The girl asks again for him to stop pushing her brother when the bus driver appears to put his hands on the girl. The girl tells the bus driver to “get your hands off” when the bus driver suddenly pushes her, causing the girl to stumble backwards. The bus driver then says to her, “What a pain in the neck you guys are. Get back there.”

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According to the children’s parents, Nene and Blake Carter, the school system has told them the bus driver has been suspended for now.

“It’s completely unacceptable,” said Carter. “We do believe this was racially-motivated. This is not the first time we have complained about this bus driver harassing our children.”

The accused bus driver is an older white male, whose name has not yet been released, and the two Carter children are black. The Carters are seeking to press charges against the bus driver and have asked the school system to fire Alicia Lord, the school’s transportation manager, claiming Lord blamed the children for the incident after viewing the video.

“She said it was my son’s fault for calling out for his sister,” said Nene Carter. “Of course he called out for his sister. This man was pushing him and he was scared. He’s only six-years-old!”

The Carters also claimed Lord ignored multiple complaints against this particular bus driver in the past from multiple families.

Lord declined to comment, citing that the matter is currently confidential due to an ongoing investigation involving personnel.

However, Morgan County Superintendent Dr. Virgil Cole acknowledged the incident and pledged to conduct a thorough investigation.

“The Morgan County Charter School System was made aware of an incident Friday afternoon involving a bus driver and students. We took immediate action, including notifying the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, who we are working with during the investigation,” said Cole. “We cannot share further details or comment due this being a personnel issue.”

The Morgan County’s Sheriff Office posted on their Facebook page that the department was looking into the matter.

“The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office has been made aware of a video circulating of an incident that occurred on a Morgan County school bus,” said the release from the Sheriff’s Office. “We are working with the Morgan County Charter School System to investigate the incident.”

Chief Deputy Keith Howard is overseeing the investigation.

“What is important for the public to know is that law enforcement was notified once the school system saw the video. They called and immediately and asked for it to be investigated. We are in the early stages of the investigation,” said Howard. “We are going to investigate and follow the facts. We are going to talk to everybody involved and discuss the options with the District Attorney’s office to see where to go from there.”

The Morgan County Branch of the NAACP issued a statement after seeing the video online.

“The Morgan County NAACP is an organization that continues to fight for equality and to eliminate race base discrimination on all levels for our youngest to the oldest citizens. The injustice many have seen regarding a recent incident on a Morgan County school bus involving the mistreatment of children in our own community is beyond words,” said Pastor Lonnie Brown, president of the local NAACP. “The NAACP cannot sit back and not speak out on this matter. We cannot continue to let children especially our black and brown children be mistreated. If we do not stand up for our children, who will?”

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According to the Carters, both their children are traumatized from the incident.

“They had trouble sleeping at night. They are afraid to ride the bus. My son asked his father to ride the bus with him everyday to keep him safe because he is afraid. My daughter was in shock that he pushed her like that. They kept asking, ‘What did we do that was wrong? Why doesn’t he like us?’”

Before the pushing incident, the Carters had already complained about the same bus driver to the school system before.

“This is not the first time he has done something like this,” said Nene Carter, who claimed the same bus driver had gotten in her daughter’s face and mocked her when she threatened to tell her father about how he treated her.

“I know other families have had problems with him, too,” said Carter. “We are not going to let this slide this time.”

Nene Carter thanked the local community for rallying around her family as the video spread across social media.

“We are so appreciative of the support we have received from the community. It’s been just all love. We are very appreciative that the community is standing behind us to tell the school this type of injustice will not be tolerated,” said Carter. “We are supposed to be ‘One Morgan’ — we all have to stand up for one another and do the right thing to make sure this type of behavior is not tolerated. Our kids should be safe to get on the bus to go to school without being worried about being taunted and abused by the people who are supposed to protect them.”


Credit: Morgan County Citizen

Credit: Morgan County Citizen

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