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Granite superintendent apologizes for bus driver's tirade

An apology from Granite Superintendent Steve Ronnenkamp on Monday reassured at least some of those who have been calling for the termination of a bus driver accused of using a racial slur against students last week.

The apology came as about a dozen parents and students met for more than an hour behind closed doors with Ronnenkamp and three other district officials. Afterward, some of the parents and students said they were confident that the district was conducting a thorough investigation into last Tuesday's incident.

"Finally, they got to hear our side of the story," said Rodney Carter, 14. "They got to hear it from us."

Carter was on the bus last Tuesday when the driver apparently called students brown garbage and trash while ordering them off the bus at Bonneville Junior High. An initial investigation suggested some of the students had become rowdy after the bus turned around and headed back to school because of a suspected mechanical problem, said district spokesman Randy Ripplinger.

"He returned the bus to Bonneville in an agitated state and ordered all the kids off the bus," Ripplinger said. "Somewhere in there, there were some racial slurs."

The bus driver is on paid administrative leave during an investigation of the incident, part of which was recorded on a student's cell phone.

The brief recordings didn't catch the alleged slurs but did depict commotion, with the bus driver at one point yelling, "I've had enough of you people ... you are no good."

All of the students who ride the bus also received an apology during a meeting with the principal, their new bus driver and some district officials after arriving at Bonneville Monday morning, said Ripplinger.

At that meeting, children were assured that they were welcome and were encouraged to "support each other and the school," while continuing to uphold bus rules, Ripplinger said.

Last week some parents were critical of the district for not firing the driver, who was removed from the route and placed under close supervision. The superintendent reopened the investigation Friday after hearing the recording.

After Monday's meeting, Kellie Hale, whose 12-year-old daughter, Cassandra Molina, was among students on the bus, expressed confidence that the district was conducting a thorough investigation of the incident, and would follow due process.

"The district has given us an apology," she said. "I don't know if the bus driver is sorry for what he did."