WASHINGTON — Dozens of concerned parents gathered outside of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) Wednesday afternoon, calling on the D.C. school system to invest its money in people better trained to work with children, including those who have special needs.
The rally stemmed from a school bus incident a few days ago. D.C. mom Chioma Oruh said police were called to her sons' school bus back on March 26 when the youngest of her two sons kept taking off his mask.
Oruh said both her seven and 10-year-old sons have autism and go to a special nonpublic school in Rockville, called Sheppard Pratt. The family lives in D.C. though, so OSSE provides their transportation.
"This traumatizing incident reflects the reality that so many Black, indigenous and young people of color face every day on our transit, in schools and in communities," the group 'We The Motherhood' said in a release.
On March 26, before the bus left her neighborhood, Oruh said she noticed that it had stopped. She went outside to check why it had pulled over, and she said the bus attendant told her that her youngest son, Jideofor or "Jedi," kept taking off his mask.
She said the attendant told her that violated their protocol and asked her to take him off the bus, which Oruh refused to do.
She told the attendant and bus driver that she had a doctor's note for both sons that she submitted on March 11.
The note reads in part, “he should not be excluded or sent home if he refuses to wear the mask as long as he remains symptom-free and has no known COVID contacts.”
In the video, viewers can see the bus driver on the phone with who the driver says is the dispatch manager. They can be heard saying, "we have nothing on file."
Oruh said she soon found out it was dispatch at the OSSE Division of Student Transportation that called the police.
She said after speaking with the driver, attendant and dispatch for about 30 minutes, two officers appeared on the scene. One can be seen speaking with the bus driver in the video.
The Superintendent's Office sent WUSA9 the following statement in response to the incident:
"Whenever there is a situation in which law enforcement interacts with our families, we share the concern of the community. Yesterday, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) was made aware of such an incident on one of its OSSE Division of Student Transportation (OSSE DOT) buses. OSSE immediately opened an investigation of the incident and has been in communication with the family.
OSSE DOT is committed to providing safe, reliable and efficient transportation services to DC students, in accordance with all health and safety guidance, and doing so in a way that meets the individual needs of the children in our care."
D.C. Councilmember Robert White reached out to Oruh after commenting on her video on Twitter. He shared the following statement with WUSA9 Monday:
"I did communicate with Dr. Oruh. I also spoke to the Superintendent on Saturday morning. I urged the Superintendent to take this opportunity to reevaluate the agency’s protocols.
Driver safety is an important issue, and not to be dismissed, but this situation should not have happened to a seven-year-old child. I’m grateful for the calm demeanor of the responding officer, but at some point we must move away from using police to settle civil matters because of the dangers it presents — trauma and possible escalation of situations that shouldn’t involve law enforcement. It's beyond time for the District to have a serious discussion about this and how we will create a restorative justice process for the family."
Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) sent WUSA9 the following statement in regards to the incident:
"OSSE DOT is committed to providing safe, reliable and efficient transportation services to DC students, in accordance with all health and safety guidance, and doing so in a way that meets the individual needs of the children in our care."