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School bus driver’s racial discrimination suit reinstated

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A federal appeals court has reinstated a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by a terminated African-American school driver, based on the fact that similarly situated white bus drivers allegedly received more lenient treatment for their wrongdoing.

Margo Carris, a school bus driver for First Student Inc., a unit of Cincinnati-based FirstGroup America Inc., was terminated for violating a company policy concerning student confidentiality after she visited the home of a student who had hit and spit on other students on the bus, causing chaos while she was driving, according to Wednesday’s ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in Margo Carris v. First Student Inc.

According to the lower court ruling, the grandmother of the student had complained she had come to their house with another student’s parent.

Ms. Carris filed suit against the bus company in U.S. District Court in Syracuse, New York, charging racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The District Court dismissed her complaint, and Ms. Carris appealed.

Ms. Carris said three white bus drivers, who had violated policies concerning student safety, were only placed on administrative leave.

The ruling said two of the white bus drivers had left sleeping children on buses, while a third had deposited a kindergarten student at an unauthorized stop in the dark that was at least six minutes away by foot from his home.  

“Further factual development is needed to aid in the determination of whether Carris was similarly situated to white comparators, who received more lenient punishments than she did,” said the unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit, in vacating dismissal of her Title VII claim and remanding the case for further proceedings.