Four teenagers were arrested Tuesday night and charged with bias intimidation of their bus driver after praising the Ku Klux Klan during the ride home from school, township police confirmed.The four boys, all about 15 years old, are accused of crowding behind their black female school bus driver after she objected to their conversation, during which they used racial slurs about the KKK’s violence against blacks, Lt. Paul Daly of the Lakewood police said.
“They stood behind her instead of being seated,” Daly said Thursday. “She felt intimidated.”
They boys were arrested on the bus and released later into the custody of their parents.
The driver, 49-year-old Sharon Peters, declined to comment Thursday night. Peters returned phone calls after she was asked to leave a meeting of public school officials called to discuss what happened on her bus.
The township Board of Education is responsible for the transportation of all public and private school students in Lakewood.
The township school superintendent and other school officials met with Peters Thursday evening, Michael Inzelbuch, the school district attorney, confirmed. A bus company official and the company’s attorney also were present, Inzelbuch said.
“We find these to be very serious allegations,” Inzelbuch said late Thursday night. “They will need to be reviewed to the full extent of the law.”
Peters drives a bus for Klarr Transportation Services of Lakewood.
Daly did not know what school the boys attended, but Klarr transports students for some of the private schools throughout Lakewood, Daly said. Inzelbuch declined to identify the school.
When reached by phone Thursday, Klarr officials declined to comment.
School officials will consider installing cameras on Peters’ school bus and changing her route and the students she transports, Inzelbuch said.
During the meeting Thursday night, officials for the unidentified private school that the boys attend assured the township Board of Education that appropriate disciplinary action will be taken if the allegations are proved to be true, Inzelbuch said.
Those private school officials said they have complained about Peters’ job performance in the past, Inzelbuch said. The complaints span the past two years, and were made prior to the Tuesday night arrest of the boys, Inzelbuch said. However, public school officials were not aware of the complaints before Thursday night, Inzelbuch said.
Now, the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is planning to get involved, according to chapter President James Waters.
“I’m outraged and I would be outraged if the situation was reversed,” Waters said. “This situation is wrong, and she did not need to treated like that.”
Waters plans to reach out to leaders throughout the Jewish community. He said he wants to help develop tolerance and diversity programs within Lakewood’s extensive private school system.