CLAY, W.Va. – The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia (ACLU-WV) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request today with the Clay County Schools Superintendent, Joe Paxton, and the Clay County Sherriff’s Office regarding an alleged incident that involved a school bus driver’s use of a gay slur. The alleged event took place September 5, 2017 on a school bus in the presence of an openly gay student. The driver is accused of saying over the bus intercom system, “No faggot activity will be permitted on this bus. In my Bible it states that ‘faggots will burn in Hell,’ and I will not condone it.”
“I was horrified to learn of this incident,” says ACLU-WV Legal Director, Jamie Lynn Crofts. “Although some of the records related to the specifics of the incident may not currently be disclosable under our Freedom of Information Act, I believe there are records that will help the ACLU-WV investigate the incident, including things like any past disciplinary records related to this specific deputy, and Clay County Schools’ policies and trainings on diversity and inclusion.”
The alleged incident was initially reported to the high school by a concerned parent on September 8, 2017 who also learned that statements were collected by a school counselor from students on the bus. Eventually the alleged event was reported to the Clay County Director of Transportation, Jared Fitzwater. Since then, Superintendent Paxton stated that the administration is actively investigating the allegations.
“I hope that it is being taken seriously by both the school system and the Sheriff’s office”, says Crofts. “LGBT students are already disproportionately bullied and harassed at school, without adults in positions of power calling them bigoted slurs and telling them they are damned to eternal hell.”
The ACLU-WV is a founding member of West Virginia Bully-Free, an initiative dedicated to eradicating bullying in West Virginia schools. In 2012, along with Fairness West Virginia, the ACLU-WV successfully included LGBTQ enumerated protections in the West Virginia Department of Education’s school bullying policy. Since then, the ACLU-WV continues to be a voice in the fight to codify statewide protections for all LGBTQ individuals.
“The ACLU-WV is committed to ensuring the rights and civil liberties of all West Virginians, including and especially those who are members of historically marginalized communities,” says Crofts. “That these alleged hateful statements were made not only by an adult in a position of power, but also a police offer who was wearing his uniform, is unconscionable.”