A University of St. Thomas bus driver was suspended last week for asking two Muslim students for their IDs when they boarded a campus shuttle.
One of the students, studying in the school’s Dougherty Family College (DFC), reported the incident along with “student witnesses” to St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan during her office hours. Kha Yang, associate vice president for inclusive excellence, participated in the conversation.
“We are grateful and proud of the DFC students who reported this incident. We all play a part in helping build an inclusive culture at St. Thomas,” DFC Dean Alvin Abraham said in a statement, according to Tommie Media.
“On Wednesday, our Muslim students were targeted but all of us lose when any member of our community is made to feel isolated, unsafe and unwelcome,” he added.
According to Abraham’s account, the first few students to board the shuttle were not asked for an ID, but a student wearing a hijab was. The Muslim student didn’t have her ID, but the driver still allowed her to board, as Abraham points out.
“This student did not have her ID. The driver argued with her a bit, but eventually let her enter and sit down,” said Abraham in an email sent to all DFC students and faculty.
The students claimed that a second student wearing a hijab was also “singled out” for an ID, but it’s unclear if this student reported the incident. The school’s Parking and Transportation Services website notes that “a valid St. Thomas identification card is required to ride” the shuttles.
Nonetheless, the bus driver was suspended and the university will now require all bus drivers to complete an anti-bias training before working at St. Thomas.
According to Tommie Media, the school stopped checking for IDs as of Friday, but hasn’t settled on any long-term policy changes.
“The vendor is taking this situation very seriously and is working closely with the university through the investigation,” Abraham added. He noted that the bus driver denied targeting students wearing hijabs.
“We were able to talk to them immediately and to see that the students were impacted by this, it’s very difficult,” Yang said in a statement. “The unfortunate thing is we can’t stop it from happening, but we will try our very best to put measures in place so that we provide support to our students.”
The DFC is making a counselor available for “student support.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “St. Thomas Shuttle” by the University of St. Thomas.