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November 1, 2006

District says driver did more than flip the bird to Bush

Posted by David Postman at 4:23 PM

In its profile of Congressman Dave Reichert this week, the King County Journal reported an Issaquah School District bus driver was fired after Reichert saw her giving the finger to George W. Bush as the presidential motorcade drove by.

The president turned to Reichert and said the bus driver had flipped him off.

Later, Reichert called the school district. After an investigation, the 43-year-old bus driver was fired in early September. She filed a union grievance earlier this month against the district, claiming wrongful termination.

The anecdote was widely reported and commented on in recent days, leading the Issaquah district to release a statement today saying it was not the only incident the driver had been involved in. The statement said:

The Issaquah School District terminated a bus driver for misconduct after she made an obscene gesture in front of students on June 16.

"This incident has to do with the responsibility of an employee who is supervising students to act professionally and serve as a role model for appropriate behavior," Superintendent Janet Barry said.

After leaving the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, the bus driver waited with a busload of middle school students on an onramp closed for the Presidential motorcade. The bus driver made an obscene gesture in the direction of the President's car when it passed by.


"This was part of a pattern of behavior with this particular bus driver, not an isolated incident," Barry said.

Following the incident, Congressman Dave Reichert called Barry and told her that he and the President had seen the gesture. Barry said she personally knows Reichert from his days serving as King County Sheriff when they discussed school resource officers. Reichert called as a courtesy, Barry said.

"He never discussed his view or suggested what action he thought would be appropriate to take," Barry said. "He reported the incident believing -- rightly -- that I would want to know this occurred, that as a steward of children and public resources, one of my employees had acted inappropriately in her job capacity."

Barry reiterated that the decision to terminate the employee was not motivated by any political reason.

"If the bus driver had made the gesture to a driver who cut her off on a local road, we would have taken the same action," Barry said.

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