GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — A school bus driver here reportedly told two high school students who identify as transgender to leave the bus for refusing to sit on the “girls’ side” of the bus last week.
On Sept. 20, a bus driver for South Glens Falls Central School District requested that all students on the high school after-school activity bus sit on different sides of the aisle based on their gender, according to a statement from the district. Before students boarded, girls were told to sit on the right side of the aisle and boys on the left.
The two students who identify as transgender chose to sit on the left side of the school bus. After all students found a seat, the driver asked those students to move to the right side of the bus. The students politely refused and remained in their seats, and had the right to do so, according to the district’s statement. The driver then gave the students a choice of moving or getting off the bus. Other students aboard voiced their concerns about how the situation was being handled.
Instead of moving, the students exited the bus before it left the school parking lot, according to the district. The driver asked for their names and told them he would follow up with school administrators. Both students met with a school administrator within minutes of getting off the bus and shared what had happened on the bus. Their parents were immediately contacted and both students were able to take another bus home from school.
Students on the bus used the high school’s anonymous tip line via text message to notify school administrators about the incident and school officials responded to the students’ concerns, according to the district.
Peter Mody, the principal for South Glens Falls High School, and high school administration followed up with the students and parents involved. The district said in its statement that it is working with the driver on how this situation could have been handled in a more appropriate manner.
Layla Sweenor, who goes by Aaren, is one of the students who was told to leave the bus and identifies as non-binary transgender, using the pronouns “they” and “them,” according to NEWS 10. Sweenor told the news source that they had never had to choose between sitting with the girls or the boys, and had to decide whether to “come out” or “stay in the closet.” Sweenor also told the bus driver that they “hear and I understand what you’re trying to say, but I am more comfortable on this side as a trans individual, and I am going to stay on this side,” according to NEWS 10.
The other student, Leo Washington, told WILX that “We kept trying to explain to him the situation about our gender identity and situation and he was saying he didn't care."
“We do not tolerate any form of discrimination against our students,” said Superintendent of Schools Michael Patton. “All students need to feel safe and supported when they are in our classrooms, on our school property, or riding in our school buses. 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.”
The district noted in its statement that all staff members went through a New York State Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) training on Sept. 5. DASA, also called The Dignity Act, seeks to provide the state’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus, and/or at a school function. The district also plans to schedule more gender sensitivity training for all staff to ensure a safe and supportive environment for all students.