Bus Driver Allegedly Shoved Black Students, Told Them to Sit in the Back

A Georgia school bus driver has been arrested after video captured him shoving two students, an attack their mother believed was racially motivated.

Cell phone footage of the altercation went viral on social media. The video taken by another student on the bus showed James O'Neil, a driver for the Morgan County Charter School System in Georgia, forcefully pushing the 6-year-old and 10-year-old Black students.

Nequania Carter, the children's mom, said the dispute began when O'Neil, who is white, ordered her 6-year-old son to sit in the back of the bus.

"I don't understand why he told him to sit in the back of the bus being that's where the high schoolers are," Carter said to The Morgan County Citizen. "The primary [students] normally sit right behind the bus driver."

According to Carter, her son started crying for his 10-year-old sister.

In the video, the older sibling yelled, "Stop pushing my brother."

The 6-year-old wailed as O'Neil appeared to throw him into a seat.

"Shut your mouth," the driver said to the 10-year-old, pointing to the back of the bus. "Get back there."

He proceeded to push her too, causing the girl to stumble backward.

"What a pain in the neck you guys are. Get out of here. Get back there," he said.

The student's mom believed her children were victims of a discriminatory attack, perpetrated by a staff member who was supposed to protect them.

"We do believe this was racially motivated," she said. "This is not the first time we have complained about this bus driver harassing our children."

School Bus Interior
Here, the interior of a school bus in the Austin Independent School District in Austin, Texas. A Georgia school bus driver has been arrested after video captured him shoving two students, an attack their mother believes was racially motivated. Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc / Contributor/Corbis Historical

Over one-third of U.S. high school students (35.6 percent) have reported experiencing bad or unfair treatment in school because of their race or ethnicity, according to a 2021 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Perceived racism was highest among Asian students (63.9 percent), Black students (55.2 percent) and multiracial students (54.5 percent).

Virgil Cole, superintendent of the Morgan County Charter School System, told Newsweek the district took "immediate action" upon learning of the incident and notified the Morgan County Sheriff's Office.

"The bus driver was terminated on Monday, September 12," said Cole. "We certainly take all incidents involving any student and our staff seriously and we will work quickly and directly to address them. We will not tolerate any inappropriate behavior or actions towards our students."

On September 16, sheriff's deputies arrested O'Neil on two counts of simple battery.

"While this was not a complex investigation, it was complicated by the allegations that the incident was perceived as being racially motivated," Morgan County Chief Deputy Keith Howard told Newsweek. "Investigators took additional time to investigate all the facts to include consulting with prosecutors in the Ocmulgee Judicial Court."

"At the conclusion of the investigation, investigators could not establish a nexus that the incident was racially motivated," said Howard.

However, Carter said she has pulled her children out of the Morgan County Charter School System. She believed that O'Neil was only fired because of public pressure surrounding the viral video.

"We feel like he was terminated because the story got more coverage than the Morgan County Charter School System would have liked," she said to The Morgan County Citizen.