“What we had was an unwillingness to help the driver.”

That was the response from Lafayette Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. Donald Aguillard to claims made by a student that he was being discriminated against by his bus driver.

17-year-old Anthony Lemus recently made accusations of discrimination against his bus driver, Kolby Begnaud, claiming the man kicked him off the bus and wouldn’t pick him up for school because of his native language, Spanish.

The part in question is how Lemus and Begnaud each handled the incident that brought about the student’s claim of discrimination. Lemus told our news partners at KATC that Begnaud told him he “can’t speak Spanish here (on the bus)” and that it was “an English only bus.” Lemus says Begnaud gave him this response while asking him for directions on where to drop him off, while the teenager was on the phone speaking Spanish with his mother. Lemus went on to describe Begnaud’s response as “being aggressive.”

But Begnaud says Lemus was uncooperative and allegedly called Begnaud several inappropriate names in Spanish while talking to his mother.

Dr. Aguillard says the incident happened on the first day of school.

Dr. Aguillard, in the press release below, shows clear support for Begnaud. He also provides perspective on why Begnaud did not pick Lemus up from school at a later date. Dr. Aguillard also provided background on Begnaud and Lemus in his interview with Rob Kirkpatrick and Bernadette Lee of “Acadiana’s Morning News.” (Listen to video above.)

On Thursday, August 11th, the first day of school, an incident occurred involving Kolby Begnaud, a Lafayette Parish School System bus driver and an English as a Second Language (ESL) student attending Lafayette High School. An investigation into the incident by district administrators revealed the following details. The incident began in the afternoon as Mr. Begnaud was bringing students home from school. Because it was the first day of school and because the route was new to him, Mr. Begnaud requested that the student come to the front of the bus to direct him to his stop. After initially refusing to comply the student moved to the front of the bus but would not assist Mr. Begnaud in helping him identify the location of his stop. According to Mr. Begnaud, the student called him several inappropriate names in Spanish while speaking on the phone, at which point he requested that the student speak in English. At a stop for another student, the ESL student darted out of the bus and began walking down the road. At this point, Mr. Begnaud began following the student and called 911 to inform police of the situation. Begnaud was told by the police to complete his bus route. When schools reopened after the flood on Monday, August 22, the student was not at the morning bus stop. He did attempt to ride the bus home that afternoon but Mr. Begnaud notified him that he needed the Lafayette High School administration to clear the student for riding after the August 11th incident. Though administrators cleared him on August 23rd, the student has not attempted to ride the bus since then. School system officials indicate that the student has withdrawn from Lafayette High School and enrolled at Acadiana High School, his home-zone school. At no time during the incident was the student considered for disciplinary action because he spoke Spanish. In a separate incident, another Lafayette Parish School System bus driver refused to make a left turn in order to deliver an elementary ESL student to his designated bus stop. A recommendation for disciplinary action has been made to the superintendent after repeated conversations with the bus driver failed to resolve the issue.