Father arrested over school bus dispute

PURVIS, MS (WDAM) - When Gerald McGee sends his three daughters to school in Purvis each morning, he says he expects them to learn, but he never expected a lesson on racism to come from their school bus.

That lesson would later get him arrested.

"If I'm being punished for being a father," McGee said, "then what do I do?"

McGee said his daughters are the only black kids who ride their school bus, and after hearing his daughters complain of harassment from other students he spoke with the shcool's principal. After further name calling and taunting, McGee decided to speak with the bus driver one Monday morning.

"I felt like I could deal with it through the bus driver," said McGee, "and it would be taken care of."

McGee admitted he did get loud with the driver, and said this isn't the first the issue which has been a problem.

He said the driver knew about the harassment but would not act.

"All I wanted to do was get my point across and make it clear," said McGee, "that the behavior of the bus and behavior of the bus driver tolerating this stuff will not be condoned by her parents."

Two days after getting his point across, McGee was arrested, charged with interfering with the operation of a school bus and was sentenced to 7 days in jail and a $620 fine.

Lamar County School Superintendent Ben Burnett said the bus driver felt threatened and signed the charges.

"We never want any parent to think that they've got to take anything into their own hands." said Burnett.

The bus video camera caught the entire incident on tape, but Burnett didn't want to release the video in fear of it becoming a Youtube sensation.

"Although it never got to the point where he was putting his hand on anyone on the video or we felt like anyone was an immediate danger," said Burnett. "It's just a concern of ours that our employees are able to take care of the children."

Magee said he also saw the tape, but feels the punishment was unwarranted. He said other parents have gotten on buses to address drivers, but only he was singled out and arrested.

"If she felt threatened they would have taken her off this bus route," said McGee, "or she would have requested to be taken off this bus route."

"I don't dispute that there was very possibly a problem on the bus with some students," said Burnett, "There are other channels to handle it."

Burnett said there have been no complaints filed against the driver about the incident with the school board, and added if other parents have confronted bus drivers, he is unaware of it.

McGee admitsted he never filed a complaint, but one thing he said he will file is a lawsuit against the school system.