A Portland Public Schools bus driver accidentally blared talk radio praising Donald Trump just before picking up students at a Southeast Portland middle school.
The incident — which occurred during the tension-filled days leading up to Trump’s inauguration — upset at least one parent, prompted a district investigation and has Portland Public Schools once again examining guidelines for what bus drivers can play on school bus radios.
Interim chief operating officer Courtney Wilton told The Oregonian/OregonLive in an email that the driver was “very embarrassed and apologetic about the whole situation.”
The station was Freedom 970-AM, a conservative station that uses the slogan “Portland’s Right Place To Talk.”
The driver needed to use the bus’s exterior speaker system to warn the last student he’d dropped off on an earlier route and accidentally left it on, Wilton said. The driver didn’t figure out until he got to his next school that he’d been broadcasting talk radio to everyone he passed.
The incident left Hosford Middle School parent Stephanie Sprague in shock.
Sprague’s nanny showed her video of her child’s driver blasting pro-Trump talk. The footage included audio of a voice saying something about Donald Trump and his ascendance to the presidency.
“It’s a big deal that we’ll have a president who loves this country, ’cause for eight years we did not,” the voice says.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Sprague told The Oregonian/Oregonlive by phone Thursday. “It’s inappropriate for somebody driving a public school bus to broadcast this type of political commentary, regardless of political affiliation.”
Wilton said the matter has the district diving back into the guidelines for what bus drivers can listen to on the job, which was a point of controversy earlier in the year after the district banned specific genres of music and certain stations. The ban came under fire after rap music made the list, sparking allegations of racism. The district walked back the policy and encouraged drivers to use their best judgment.
“We don’t mention politics in current policy,” Wilton wrote in an email. “but may need to think about that in the future given many find partisan rhetoric (vs. general news) offensive.”
It’s not the first time a public employee has landed in hot water over public statements in support of Trump.
On Election Day, a Multnomah County Sheriff’s deputy yelled, “vote Trump” at a group of people waiting in line to drop off their ballots in Southeast Portland. The deputy is now under investigation by the Oregon secretary of state elections staff.
The sheriff’s department has not named the deputy, citing the investigation.
Wilton also did not disclose the name of the bus driver.
— Bethany Barnes and Eder Campuzano
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