A school bus assistant who was seen on video snatching a pro-President Trump “Make America Great Again” hat off a 14-year-old student’s head has been suspended, school officials in South Florida decided Tuesday.
The Martin County School Board voted 5-0 to suspend Delores Matheny for four days without pay and order her to undergo further professional training for her behavior during the March 5 incident, a local NBC affiliate reported.
Surveillance video from a bus en route to Hidden Oaks Middle School showed Ms. Matheny yelling at 14-year-old Gunnar Johansson for wearing the hat and then grabbing the hat off of his head.
“Boy, if you don’t that hat off on this bus — take it off!” the bus aide yelled in the video.
Gunnar told local media that he wore his hat that day “to show my pride in Trump America” after the school lifted its hat policy for students if they made a donation to March of Dimes.
The Martin County Sherriff’s Office investigated the incident as a possible assault of a minor, but prosecutors declined to pursue criminal charges.
In a statement to the sheriff’s office, Ms. Matheny wrote that she regretted her behavior.
“I do not have a problem with Gunnar,” she wrote, TCPalm reported. “I am sorry for what I did, and I hope he forgives me. I overreacted.”
During Tuesday’s school board meeting, Gunnar’s parents, Jacquelyn Putt and Michael Putt, told members that Ms. Matheny “bullied, intimidated and harassed” their son “while threatening him to take off his favorite hat on Hat Day.”
“She threatened him with a referral, threatened to turn the bus around and physically touched my son by ripping his hat off his head in front of a busload of students wearing hats,” Mrs. Putt said, TCPalm reported. “They were not made to remove their hats.”
Several people also spoke on Ms. Matheny’s behalf. Her nephew, Jere Matheny, said his aunt didn’t deserve to lose her job.
“I hear all the cold words, ‘bullying, attacks, assault. Really what this boils down to is great political theater,” he said, TCPalm reported. “It was a mishap from a good woman and it should not mean the end of her career.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Matheny has been assigned to a different bus for when she returns to work, NBC reported.
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