School bus driver charged with battery and fired after video shows him shoving black siblings
A white bus driver has been fired and charged with battery after cell phone footage surfaced showing him pushing two young black siblings to the back of the bus.
James O’Neil, a bus driver for the Morgan Country Charter School System in Georgia, was arrested Friday, Sept. 16, and charged with two counts of simple battery.
Nequania Carter, the mother of the two children, ages 6 and 10, claimed the same bus driver had harassed her children in the past and suggested the incident was racially motivated.
However, despite examining three separate video clips of the incident, including the bus security camera, investigators were unable to clearly determine whether the attack was racist in nature.
Hence, O’Neill has not been charged with racially aggravated battery.
Carter said her children were traumatized after the incident and had all been removed from the school system since then.
School bus driver James O’Neil has been fired and charged with a simple battery after being filmed pushing two young siblings, ages six and ten, and ordered them to sit in the back of the bus
“My son is terrified, he was scared, he cried out for his older sister as you could hear him crying…he was shocked…you should protect him,” she said. FOX5.
It all started when the driver assaulted the six-year-old when he refused O’Neil’s order to sit in the back of the bus, even though the standard seat for the youngest children is to sit in the front.
When the 10-year-old daughter intervened to defend her brother, the video appears to show O’Neil pushing her too.
“Stop touching my brother!” the sister seems to be yelling at the driver.
“Shut up or shut up!” the driver replies. ‘Go back!’ O’Neil barks and points to the back of the bus.
Then he gives the sister a strong push and shouts: ‘What a pain in your neck! Go away!’
“I was stunned … the emotional damage it caused … my kids don’t want to go back to school … they don’t want to go back on the school bus,” Carter said.
She said it wasn’t the first time her family had complained about James O’Neil to school officials and she believes she picked them for a reason.
“I’ve never held a child in my hands and I’ve ridden school buses too,” Carter said.
The incident reportedly started with O’Neil pushing the younger brother after he refused to go to the back of the bus. He then called out to his big sister to protect him
“My kids don’t want to go back to school… they don’t want to get back on the school bus.”
Only after the video of the incident went viral on social media was O’Neil fired and the case referred to law enforcement by the school system.
“The investigation resulted in the arrest of James O’Neil on two simple charges,” Morgan County Chief Deputy Keith Howard told the Morgan County Citizen.
“While this was not a complicated investigation, it was complicated by the allegation that the incident was perceived as racially motivated.”
“Investigators took extra time to investigate all the facts, including consultations with prosecutors on the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit,” he said.
“Detectives were unable to establish a connection that the incident was racially motivated.”
After his arrest, Carter and her husband, Blake, thanked the community for their support in pressuring the Morgan Country Charter School System to finally take action against O’Neil.
“We are very relieved that a report has been filed and that no other parents have to worry about the safety of their children when it comes to Mr. O’Neil,” they wrote in a statement.
“We greatly appreciate the NAACP for all their support and assistance as well as the community support.”
But they criticized the school system’s initial response as motivated only by the negative media coverage and community response.
‘We feel like’ [O’Neil] was terminated because the story received more attention than the Morgan County Charter School System would have liked,” Carter said.
O’Neil directs his anger at the older sister, whom he pushes vigorously and at whom he yells, calling a ‘ache in the neck’
They also said it was rumored that, prior to the strong backlash, they were just planning to send O’Neil to retrain.
They also accused transportation manager Alicia Lord of ignoring multiple previous complaints from the family against the driver.
A school system spokesperson released a statement following the incident saying: “The Morgan County Charter School System was notified Friday afternoon of an incident involving a bus driver and students.
“We have taken immediate action, including notifying the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, with whom we are cooperating during the investigation.
‘We are unable to provide further details or comment as this is a staffing issue; however, the driver has been suspended.’
O’Neil languished in jail for a day before being released on bail. He is waiting for a date for his appearance in court, where he will submit his plea.