Mother Chioma Oruh in Washington, D.C., has spoken out after her 7-year-old son was kicked off of the bus after not consistently wearing his mask.
Oruh dropped her 7-year-old son, Jideofor "Jedi" Oruh at his pick-up and drop-off location. Oruh watched the doors to the bus close and the driver continue on their route, only for the bus to stop again a few yards away.
Suspicious, Oruh approached the bus to see what was going on. When the driver opened the boarding door, they were on the phone with their dispatch center, who was on speaker phone, and the driver explained to Oruh that her son refused to consistently keep his mask on.
The driver then told Oruh that her son would need to get off of the bus, because he was unwilling to cooperate.
You can watch more about this incident and the resulting protest rally here:
Oruh reminded the driver that she had submitted a doctor's note to the school, stating:
"[Jedi] should not be excluded or sent home if he refuses to wear the mask as long as he remains symptom-free and has no known COVID contacts."
But as it turned out, the dispatch center and school bus transportation system had never received a copy of the letter forwarded from the school.
To make matters worse, while Oruh was talking to the bus driver, the dispatcher proceeded to call the police and sent them to the school bus's current location.
A patrol car showed up in response to a 7-year-old autistic child whose sensory difficulties did not allow him to keep his mask on consistently.
After this incident, Oruh had multiple questions for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) in D.C., including why the doctor's note was not forwarded to the transportation system, as well as why a dispatcher would think calling the police was the best solution for an uncooperative 7-year-old child.
The OSSE did not respond well, blaming the Oruh family:
"An OSSE Division of Student Transportation bus driver called for MPD support to help de-escalate a situation in which a parent would not leave a school bus, which was impairing the ability of the bus to transport students to school,"
"The call was made after the driver and her dispatcher had been in conversation with the parent and there was disagreement about safety protocols for her child on the bus, and the parent refused to leave the vehicle."
When the OSSE's story did not match up with Oruh's account, the mother took matters into her own hands.
She proceeded to start a pledge against police brutality and also held a rally, calling for accountability on the part of the police and OSSE.
Jedi, Atty & all the other vulnerable Black/Brown/disabled/poor students that need #CareNotCops #SmashOnAbleism '… https://t.co/AeGuQnj2bf— Chioma Oruh (@Chioma Oruh)1617914074.0
Twitter responded positively to the protest and the pledge.
People powered movement demands we have care not criminalization. We do this for Jedi and for every Black disabled… https://t.co/AxOTfq9SsJ— DC Working Families 🐺 (@DC Working Families 🐺)1617833457.0
@ChiBornfree Proud of you for mobilizing the community around your son's incident to address the larger issues! ✊🏿👏🏿👏🏿👏🏿— Allyson THEE Crizzle Brown (@Allyson THEE Crizzle Brown)1617885059.0
Done! https://t.co/7Our4BILbj— Sandra Moscoso (@Sandra Moscoso)1617989579.0
Fortunately, the altercation with the bus driver was peaceful, and Oruh stated the driver, dispatcher on the phone and police officers who appeared on the scene were all kind and spoke civilly.
Oruh also said she did not blame the police for appearing, as they were only doing their jobs.
But the dramatic differences in the OSSE's story from Oruh's is troubling. Clearly the call for further accountability is needed.