Surveillance video from a South Florida school bus shows a bus aide ordering a student to take off his Make America Great Again hat and then ripping it off his head, WPTV reported.
On Thursday afternoon, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office got a call from the boy’s mother, Jacquelyn Putt, about what happened to her 14-year-old son Gunnar Johansson on the bus. According to the family, Johansson’s middle school was allowing students to wear a hat of their choice if they made a donation to the March of Dimes.The boy said he decided to wear a Trump Make America Great Again hat “to show my pride in Trump America.”
The school district reportedly has no policy against wearing political apparel to school. According to WPTV, Johansson said other kids were wearing “similar red hats” to school. But within seconds of boarding his bus to Hidden Oaks Middle School, the bus aide, who has not been identified, began haranguing the boy. “Boy, if you don’t take that hat off this bus… take it off. Take that hat off… take that hat off…” the bus aide is heard saying in the video.
“I was really confused. I was like, ‘I can’t wear this?’” Johansson said.
The bus aide is heard repeatedly insisting that the teen take his hat off and put it in his backpack. “She, like, threatened me with a referral and threatened to turn the bus around. I said, ‘Write me up, I didn’t do anything wrong,’ and then she yanked my hat off. It was crazy,” Johansson said. The boy told deputies that the bus aide told him to “never wear that nonsense on this bus again.”
Now, Martin County deputies are investigating whether the bus aide committed a crime.
The aide told deputies at the Martin County Sheriff’s Office her side of the story, saying she asked the boy to take off his hat several times and he refused. She then “gently removed it from his head and asked him to put it in his backpack because she didn’t know students were allowed to wear a hat that day.” According to Johansson, however, other students wearing hats were allowed to keep wearing them, while he was forced to continue the bus ride without wearing his hat.
The aide told deputies she was “personally offended” by the hat and said she “totally regret[s] doing this.” In handwritten statement obtained by WPTV, she said she was sorry about what she did and hoped the student would forgive her. She also admitted that she “overreacted.”
Putt said her other son and other students on the bus started texting her and their parents. “I immediately went to the school,” Putt said. “I needed to know what my son just went through and what she did to my son.”
According to WPTV, “Putt feels the bus aide’s actions were politically motivated.”
Putt spoke with the principal, and had her son write down everything he remembered about the incident.
She said she decided to file a police report after learning she would not be able to see the video of her son until the investigation by the school district is closed.
“The district is aware of the family’s allegations. We’re taking it very seriously. We’re in the process of gathering all the facts right now,” said Frank Frangella, Director of Safety and Security for the Martin County School District.
Martin County Lieutenant Ryan Grimsdale will be reviewing the video and interviewing everyone involved.
“The crux of our investigation will be the interaction directly, physically with the child and how that panned out,” Grimsdale said.
Putt told WPTV she is proud of how her son handled the situation. “We all have a right to who we want to vote for. This is America,” she said. “Stand up for what you believe in.”
The school district has not confirmed the employment status of the aide, but Johansson told WPTV she has not been on his school bus since the altercation. Charges could reportedly be filed against the aide by early next week.