A bus driver in New York state kicked two students, age 15 and 16, off a school bus on their way home from South Glens Falls High School after the driver insisted that the kids sit according to gender, and saying the teens should sit on the girls’ side, something that should not have happened, according to the school’s administration.
According to The Post Star, the students both identify as gender non-binary, meaning that they don’t fall into traditional gender categories at all. The students, Leo Washington and Aaren Sweetnor, chose to sit on the “boys” side of the bus, and, according to Washington, that’s when the chaos began.
“Before he started the bus, (the bus driver) gave us this weird look and he told us to get to the girls’ side of the bus and we didn’t move because we felt more comfortable where we were sitting. When we tried to explain it to him, he started yelling at us to move to the other side of the bus,” Washington told The Post Star.
One student began filming the altercation, which was then uploaded to Facebook. In the video, other students who were also riding the bus can be heard coming to Washington and Sweetnor’s aid, saying things like, “This isn’t right,” and asking the driver, “What about what they want?”
Sweetnor and Washington eventually got off the bus, went back to their school, and had the principal contact their parents before taking alternate buses home.
But here’s where the story takes an encouraging turn.
The kids’ school district and administration immediately stood by the students. In a press release last week, the South Glens Flls Superintendent of Schools, Michael Patton, clarified that the district does not tolerate discrimination of any kind, saying, “All students need to feel safe and supported when they are in our classrooms, on our school property, or riding in our school buses.” He then pledged that the board will continue to work toward better education for staff and students.
“We will continue to train and educate all of our students and adults about protecting the rights and needs of all students. We will continue to work hard in creating a supportive learning environment that is safe and free of any form of discrimination. I hope this unfortunate event can be used as a learning experience for all.”
Patton also told The Post Star that while the driver’s reaction was inappropriate, he believes the driver was only trying to create order in an otherwise chaotic situation and that the students were well within their rights to refuse the request.
Studies show that trans and non-binary youth are at risk for increased mental health disorders, as well as higher suicide rates. With more support from peers, parents, and schools, and through organizations like the Ackerman Institute for the Family, more trans and gender non-conforming kids will grow up healthy, safe, and secure.
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