November 8, 2011 in City

STA issues apology for bus incident

Driver kicked trio off for talking about sexual orientation; video shows no rules were violated
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Three young people talking about bisexuality were kicked off a Spokane Transit Authority bus last month, and now STA officials said the driver made a mistake in booting them.

Two women in their 20s and a teenage boy were talking among themselves about a friend’s sexual orientation during a bus ride on Oct. 20.

After other passengers got off the bus, the young people got into a dispute with the driver about whether they could continue their discussion.

The bus driver told them the topic bothered her and she ordered them off the bus midway between stops and more than a mile from their destination, said Carla Savalli, executive director of Odyssey Youth Center.

The Spokane center provides support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

Savalli and a parent of one of the young people kicked off the bus filed complaints with STA, transit officials said.

In booting the riders, the driver cited a violation of STA’s rules of conduct, Savalli said.

One section of the code forbids “disturbing others by engaging in loud, raucous, unruly, aggressive, violent, harmful or harassing behavior.”

Another section bans “offensive, disgusting or insulting” language.

The incident was captured on videotape on board the bus and the driver filed an incident report later that day.

Savalli said she met with STA officials and viewed the video, which showed no violation of the rules.

STA issued a statement last week following an investigation.

“The findings concluded that the youth had not violated STA rules of conduct and should have been allowed to finish their ride on the bus,” the statement said.

Savalli said that Susan Meyer, STA chief executive officer, apologized for the incident.

Odyssey staff have been asked to work with STA to include training for drivers on being sensitive to LGBTQ issues.

“It was just a mishandled situation,” Savalli said. “I’m pretty happy with how they responded.”

STA did not identify the driver and did not provide any information about personnel actions that might have been taken against the driver.


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