PLEASANT GROVE, Utah — A bus driver with the Alpine School District is no longer employed by the district, after parents and students said the driver displayed controversial signs inside his bus and went on political rants over the intercom.
Hayden McCollum, a Pleasant Grove High School sophomore, said the signs have been up since the beginning of the school year, when the driver took over the bus route in his neighborhood. He said the driver was on a different route last year.
Hayden described the frequent announcements students heard over the intercom.
“Every other day or so up until recently, and he would just talk about recent political stuff, like Afghanistan and how much he didn't like Joe Biden, and political stuff," Hayden recounted.
Photos showed a sampling of the signs, many political and religious in nature, questioning policies such as gun control, free healthcare, and education. Topics focused on included government policy, abortion and the LGBTQ community.
One sign showcased a list espousing that there are differences between boys and girls, that children are better when raised by both a mother and father, and "an unborn child is a child."
Hayden indicated that some signs had messaging about race as well.
“People didn't like them, especially the minorities that some of them mentioned," he said.
Jordan McCollum, Hayden's mother, expressed that she didn't know the signs were on display in her son's bus, until parent Jeff Case received pictures of the signs from his daughter.
“We have children who have been seeing this every day for how long?" she questioned. "And we haven't had the opportunity to present both sides, or to talk about how these things might align or not with our values and our values for society."
McCollum called the situation 'upsetting,' and said while she expects students to learn various political beliefs at school, she expects them to be able to see both sides and have the chance to engage with critical thinking.
She has since found out that one of Hayden's friends stopped riding the bus, she said, because that student didn't feel safe.
Case said his daughter rode that bus for the first time last week, as she went home to a friend's house. He said the signs upset his daughter and daughter's friends.
"It just has to do with appropriateness of, is this the right place to put the messaging?," he asked. Case said he immediately notified district transportation officials about the signs on Friday, and they told him they would look into it.
Case says he has no problem with the bus driver having a different point of view, but felt displaying those beliefs on a public school bus crossed the line.
"That's not his personal space," added Case. "That's not the place to be putting politically-driven information."
"The 'where' matters on this. And so I think inside of a school bus with government property, it's inappropriate to place a person's opinion, especially when it's politically-charged or religiously-charged."
Hayden said the driver-- signs and all-- picked kids up for school Monday morning. However upon pulling up to PGHS, he could see school district employees waiting for the bus to arrive to talk to the driver.
Hayden and his mother Jordan relayed that the employees got on the bus after kids got off.
District officials released a statement regarding the driver later Monday morning.
"Alpine School District has concluded an investigation regarding concerns with a bus driver. Although the details of a personnel investigation are confidential, the driver involved is no longer an employee of Alpine School District," the statement reads.
Case said another parent told him a similar report was made about the driver back in April, but the school district did not confirm if they received past complaints.
After reaching out to seek opinions on a private social media page, Case said many parents said they agreed with the driver's viewpoint, but felt it should not have been on a school bus.
"This is not the place to put forward these ideas. He does not have the authority to be teaching this stuff," Case said. "That's not his job, and I feel like it's appropriate to make sure where we're messaging matters, and how we go about doing it matters."
"This wasn't the place. This wasn't the time."
The Alpine School District dealt with a similar matter at the beginning of the school year, after a teacher was recorded making controversial political statements about hating former President Donald Trump, and the intelligence of students's parents to a class. That teacher is no longer employed by the district.