A Georgia school bus driver has been fired and arrested after a viral video showed him shoving two Black students.
The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office arrested the driver, James O’Neil, on Friday, charging him with two counts of battery after a cellphone video showed him getting physical with a 6-year-old and a 10-year-old on the school bus. O’Neil is white, and the children's parents have deemed the incident racially motivated.
“My son is terrified, he was scared, he called for his older sister as you could hear he was crying…he was horrified...you’re supposed to be protecting him,” the children’s mother Nequania Carter told local outlet FOX 5.
Carter said the confrontation started on Sept. 9, when O’Neil demanded the 6-year-old sit at the back of the bus. The boy didn’t comply, which resulted in O’Neil getting physical.
“I don’t know why he told them to sit in the back of the bus because the high schoolers sit back there and normally the primaries sit right behind the bus driver,” Carter explained.
The boy’s 10-year-old sister could be seen on video trying to intervene, which resulted in her getting pushed as well.
“Shut your mouth,” O’Neil can be heard saying to the 10-year-old as he pushes the little boy. After he shoves the young girl, he then says, “What a pain in the neck you guys are. Get back there.”
“I was stunned…the emotional damage that it did…my kids don’t want to go back to school…they don’t want to get back on the school bus,” Carter said.
In a request for comment, the Morgan County Charter School System told FOX 5 they were working with authorities and that they had fired O’Neil.
“The Morgan County Charter School System was made aware of an incident Friday afternoon involving a bus driver and students. We took immediate action, including notifying the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, who we are working with during the investigation. We cannot share further details or comment due to this being a personnel issue; however, the driver was terminated,” the statement read in part.
James O’Neil, who has been a driver for the Morgan County Charter School System since 2020, was arrested on Friday. He spent a day in the Morgan County Detention Center before bonding out to await trial. He will now await a court date to adjudicate the charges and make a plea.
The Morgan County Citizen spoke with Morgan County Chief Deputy Keith Howard, who confirmed O’Neil had been arrested.
“The investigation resulted in the arrest of James O’Neil on two counts of simple battery,” Howard told the outlet. “While this was not a complex investigation, it was complicated by the allegation that the incident was perceived as being racially motivated.”
Howard added that investigators sifted through three separate videos of the encounter, two of which were filmed by students and the other being the official bus cam footage. Based on the audio of the incident, Howard said they can’t yet determine if the incident was racially motivated.
“We are very relieved that charges were filed and that no other parents have to worry about the safety of their children when it comes to Mr. O’Neil.” read a joint statement from the Carters sent to The Morgan County Citizen. “We really appreciate the NAACP for all their support and assistance and also the support from the community.”
They added that they have permanently pulled their kids from the school system as a result of the incident.