MOORHEAD - The Moorhead school bus driver who is accused of using a racial slur as he abandoned about 20 students in the city's industrial park has been fired, according to the company that employed him.
The driver was let go Friday, Nov. 25, after what happened Tuesday, Nov. 22, said Greg Nord, manager of Red River Trails, a company contracted to provide buses and drivers for the Moorhead School District.
"The driver made some bad decisions and was terminated because of it," he said.
Nord declined to release the name of the driver, a white man who's about 50 years old. Nord said the driver, hired by Red River Trails in September, did not have prior job performance issues.
Superintendent Lynne Kovash said the driver was taking Horizon Middle School students home on Tuesday afternoon before he left them stranded in the 2500 block of 12th Avenue South.
Kovash said there was apparently some sort of disruptive behavior on the bus, and the frustrated driver told the students to get off the bus.
One of the students told WDAY-TV that the driver called students the N-word when they exited the bus. Kovash said students have told the school district the same thing. The superintendent said "quite a few" of the students on the bus were black.
Kovash said she's not certain whether the driver used the slur but that she does not question the students' accounts. "That's their perception. That's what they heard," she said.
She said Minnesota's privacy laws prevent her from saying whether audio and video recordings from the bus show the driver using the slur. A public records request submitted to the school district seeking the audio and video did not receive an immediate response Monday, Nov. 28.
Kovash said school officials met with the students Monday morning, apologized for what happened and let them know counseling is available. "Whether they were misbehaving or not, they should have never been dropped off like that," she said.
Another bus was immediately sent to pick up the students, but many of them had already secured other rides, Kovash said. The incident was reported to the Minnesota Department of Education, Clay County Social Services and the Moorhead Police Department, she said.
Lt. Tory Jacobson, a Moorhead police spokesman, said he doesn't expect criminal charges will be filed against the driver. Jacobson and Kovash both said they did not know the driver's name.
Kovash said school officials are not investigating the driver's actions because he is not a district employee. The district, however, is investigating the students' behavior on the bus, she said.
"We're interviewing students, watching the video," she said, adding that no students have been disciplined so far.
Kovash said she planned to ride the bus Monday afternoon to see how students were faring and to ensure there was good behavior.