SUMMITVILLE, Ind. (AP) — A central Indiana school bus driver is suing the district that employs him, alleging his First Amendment rights were violated when he was suspended after speaking out against proposed changes that would have forced some children to travel farther to attend school.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the federal lawsuit last month on behalf of Madison-Grant United School Corp. bus driver James “Randy” Sizelove, The Herald Bulletin of Anderson reported.
The suit says Sizelove signed an online petition and spoke at a public meeting in 2017 against the district’s plan to convert one elementary school into a kindergarten through second grade facility and another into a school serving grades three through six. He said the changes would be detrimental to students and their families.
Sizelove, who has been a bus driver for the district about 10 years, was subsequently suspended for a week and threatened with more serious disciplinary action, the lawsuit says. Sizelove was within his rights to make the comments, which were related to matters of public concern, it says.
“This suspension, and the prohibition on the future exercise of his expressive rights, violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the complaint said.
Superintendent Scott Deetz said the district respects the privacy rights of its staff and won’t comment on personnel matters.
Deetz and some board members said in 2017 that the changes were needed to prevent school closures, although the board eventually shelved the plan after vocal opposition based on transportation concerns.
Though Sizelove’s children are adults, he still expects his grandchildren to attend Madison-Grant schools.
“If it goes into effect, the reconfiguration plan will directly affect Mr. Sizelove’s family as, at some point, his grandchildren will be required to attend different elementary schools in different towns,” the complaint states.
Leslie Gibson, another Madison-Grant bus driver, said that like Sizelove, she doesn’t believe the reconfiguration is in the best interests of children and families in the area.
“They just want to push this because that’s just what they want. It’s not just transportation. If they want something, they just try to bully you into it,” she said. “There’s more cons than pros. There’s going to be a lot of kids on the buses longer. I’ve had a lot of parents tell me if this goes through, they’re moving their kids.”