‘Silence or English:’ Chatham County school bus driver told students they can only speak English on bus

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 6:33 PM EST
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CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - An investigation is underway after a Chatham County school bus driver told students they couldn’t speak Spanish, their native language.

“You cannot be telling these children they cannot speak Spanish on the bus ma’am.”

Alex Morales’s sisters attend Gould Elementary School. On Tuesday, his sister came to him crying.

“She said ‘the bus driver told me that if I keep speaking Spanish that I will get suspended and she moved us to the front of the bus so she could watch us not speak Spanish,’” said Morales.

Morales says he came to this bus stop to confront the driver. He recorded the confrontation.

“They scream and holler and fight. I told them they have to be quiet or tentatively speak English,” said the bus driver in the video.

“There are like 10 children that are saying you’re telling them they cannot speak Spanish,” said Morales.

“Silence or English,” said the bus driver.

“It just hurt because my little sister didn’t even want to go to school,” said Morales.

Morales says he’s also unhappy because he reported the situation to the transportation department. He says he was given a runaround.

“They were just pushing us to ‘oh we can’t help you, go with them, oh we can’t help you go with them’. It finally came down to ‘go to the school.’ We went to the school in the first place and even the school told us, ‘oh we can’t do nothing about that. I don’t hire school bus drivers, I can’t fire school bus drivers, I can’t tell them nothing,” Morales said.

A Savannah Chatham public schools spokesperson sent WTOC a statement:

SCCPSS is aware of an allegation that some students have been prevented from speaking Spanish, their native tongue, on a school bus. SCCPSS in no way discriminates against any race, gender or ethnicity and is committed to providing a welcoming environment to all students in the classroom and on the school bus. The district is committed to working closely with the diverse population we serve. The incident is under investigation. As this involves personnel, there is no further comment on this matter.

“I’m not saying fire her but educate them how to talk to the kids,” Morales said.

He hopes speaking up will show other Spanish speaking people, “You’re voice is heard and you’re not alone.”