MOORHEAD - The Moorhead bus driver who left about 20 Horizon Middle School students stranded in the city's industrial park last week and launched a racial slur as they got off the bus says he lost his temper and regrets his actions.
"I should have never said the N-word," David Russell Miller told The Forum on Wednesday, Nov. 30. "I apologize for everything, to all the kids."
Miller, 50, of Moorhead said three students had designated seats in the front of the bus because of past behavior issues. Miller, who's white, said the three students were complaining about their assigned seats during the ride home Nov. 22, and an argument erupted between Miller and one of the three, who is black.
During the back-and-forth, the student called Miller an N-word twice, according to Miller and a Moorhead police report written by an officer who reviewed video from the bus.
Miller responded by telling the student, "You're an (N-word) too," and the student then used a slur for a white person against Miller, the report said.
Soon afterward, Miller told all the students to get off in the 2500 block of 12th Avenue South, an industrial part of town. As students left the bus, Miller said, "You (N-words). Get off my bus," according to the report.
Miller said at that point he was aiming the slur at the three students with assigned seats. Aside from the black student, Miller said he was unsure of the races of the other two students.
Despite his use of the slur, Miller insisted that he's not racist. "The reason why the N-word was called is because I was called it," he said. "I'm white. Why would anybody call me the N-word?"
Miller said being called the slur caused him to lose his temper. What also made him irate was that the student said "he'd tell his brother to come shoot me," according to Miller. This statement was not in the police report, which notes that not all of the exchange between Miller and the student was audible in the video.
After leaving the bus, the student threw a handful of sand at the driver but did not hit him, according to Miller and the report.
Because of what happened, Miller was fired from his job with Red River Trails, a company contracted to provide buses and drivers for the Moorhead School District, according to the company.
Miller said he was hired in September and had not driven a school bus before. He said he would have benefited from training in how to deal with student behavior problems. It would have also helped to have another adult on the bus to keep tabs on the students, he said.
"It's kind of hard to watch these students behind me because I'm trying to watch the road," he said. "You can't handle so many kids ganging up on you, and you're the only one on the bus."
Superintendent Lynne Kovash said another bus was immediately sent to pick up the students, but many of them had already secured other rides.
Kovash said school officials met with all the students, "quite a few" of whom are black, and apologized to them Monday, Nov. 28. "Whether they were misbehaving or not, they should have never been dropped off like that," she said.
Kovash said school officials are not investigating Miller's actions because he was not a district employee. The district, however, is investigating the students' behavior on the bus, she said. Criminal charges are not expected against Miller or any students, the police report said.
Kovash declined to identify the three students involved. She and the police both said they could not release the video from the bus, citing student privacy laws.
Miller said he's done with driving a bus for a while. "I don't know what I'm going to do," he said. "Right now, I'm just trying to see if this'll blow over. I don't know if it will."