Johnson City is at the center of a lawsuit alleging it discriminated against a student when it banned him from riding the bus.
Like it or not, bullying is alive and well in the U.S. today, and sometimes it can have devastating effects on the victims. Sometimes bullying incidents even involve discrimination and may even result in lawsuits, such as one that was just filed against Johnson City. Johnson City was recently hit with a civil rights lawsuit filed by Sullivan County parents for $1.2 million. The suit claims their son was “wrongfully suspended from riding the school bus for three days.” According to the boy’s parents, he was discriminated against because he is an African American. The suit itself was filed last month in U.S. District Court in Greeneville and names the Johnson City as the defendant. The family is being represented by James Friauf, an attorney in Knoxville.
The plaintiffs are referred to as ‘E.D.’ in the lawsuit, and the student is referred to as ‘D.D.’ The plaintiffs are the parents of the student. Why exactly was the lawsuit filed, though? What led to the student being suspended from riding the bus? Well, according to the student’s parents, the suit “stems from an altercation that took place on a school bus in December 2019 between D.D. and a Caucasian student named David.” According to the suit, “David began bullying younger children on the bus, and D.D. told him to stop. Then, David used a water bottle to spray water on other students, and D.D. grabbed the bottle.” The suit further alleges that David “grabbed the water bottle back and began taunting him and calling him names.” From there, “the two students began pushing each other with David taking a swing at D.D.”
As a result, the bus driver pulled over and called the police. Ten minutes later, they arrived and spoke with the students involved. After doing so, the police had the students get back on the bus, though “Johnson City Transit Director Eldona Janutolo arrived shortly after” and ordered D.D. off the bus. She proceeded to tell him he was “kicked off indefinitely.” According to the suit, she told D.D. to “get your bags and walk home.” However, David was allowed to get back on the bis.
As a result, E.D. argues in the suit that the student was discriminated against based on his race and was suspended from riding the bus for three days. As part of the suit, the family is seeking $300,000 in compensatory damages and $900,000 in punitive damages.