GMT Driver Who Ordered Students Off Bus Is Reinstated | Off Message

GMT Driver Who Ordered Students Off Bus Is Reinstated


From left: GMT interim general manager Jon Moore and board chair Thomas Chittenden - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • From left: GMT interim general manager Jon Moore and board chair Thomas Chittenden
The Green Mountain Transit driver who was fired after ordering Burlington school children off his bus on May 23 is back on the job.

Union leaders successfully challenged the driver's termination in a labor grievance, and he returned to work in August.

"We followed a contractual grievance process with our union partners and he was reinstated," Jon Moore, GMT's interim general manager, said Tuesday morning after a regularly scheduled board meeting. 

In a separate development, two parents of kids involved in the May incident have filed a complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission.

A parent originally drew attention to the incident by posting on Facebook that the driver had singled out children of color and ordered them off the bus for "singing and clapping."

Footage viewed by Seven Days revealed that some of the children were white and that they had been told to exit after loudly chanting, banging on the bus and ignoring the driver's request that they stop.
After reviewing the video, GMT officials said the driver had not acted in a discriminatory manner but had violated protocols in ordering the children off the bus. The agency suspended the driver with pay and then fired him, over the union's objections. GMT has refused to identify the driver, citing personnel rules.

Burlington contracts with GMT to transport students who do not live within walking distance to schools. District leaders generally agreed that there was no bias but expressed concern about the children's safety. School officials also pledged to work with students to improve onboard behavior. 
Moore said Tuesday that he's now regularly communicating with Burlington Superintendent of Schools Yaw Obeng and other administrators "to make sure that we're working collaboratively, to make sure that kids get home safely."

Thomas Chittenden, the GMT board chair, echoed that: "I think every organization, everybody can do better on these things." 

The driver received CTO — combined time off — due to him, but he did not receive back pay for the time he was off the job, Moore said. 

Montpelier attorney Robert Appel said he's representing the two parents who filed the human rights complaint. Appel declined to name the parents, saying they feared retaliation.

According to Appel, the complaint alleges that the bus driver violated public accommodations law and, in ordering children who were overwhelmingly students of color off the bus, showed racial bias.

“I know the bus company has said that it wasn’t, and the school has said that it wasn't, but we would appreciate an independent look by the commission,” Appel said. 

It's possible the case could be settled, Appel added: "My clients are looking for some guarantee that the bus company will take these matters more seriously.”
Bor Yang, the executive director and legal counsel for the Vermont Human Rights Commission, told Seven Days via email that she could not comment on any complaint or provide a copy of it.

The GMT board went into executive session at Tuesday's meeting to discuss the complaint. No action was taken.

"It was to make sure the board's aware of current conversations," Moore said. He declined to provide further details.

Moore became interim manager of Green Mountain Transit shortly after the July 20 resignation of former general manager Mark Sousa, who the board had put on leave on July 8. 
Sousa negotiated a separation agreement that paid him a severance of $10,159, in addition to a lump sum of $29,969 for accrued CTO. The bus agency also agreed to pay $6,774 to cover three months of COBRA health insurance for Sousa following his resignation.

Asked if Sousa's departure was related to the May bus incident, Chittenden said a "variety of factors" came before the board, and Sousa resigned.

A search for a new manager is underway. Moore said he hasn't decided whether to apply.

"I haven't made my mind up on that yet," he told Seven Days.

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