Driver to face punishment for kicking kissing girls off bus

Driver to face punishment for kicking kissing girls off bus »Play Video
Maika Rich, left, and Jocelyn O'Neal are pictured in this file photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A transit agency chief apologized Wednesday to two lesbian teenagers who were kicked off a bus when a passenger complained about them kissing.

"Removing the girls from the bus was not consistent with our policy," said TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen. "I want to reiterate that we welcome all riders on our system."

The 64-year-old bus driver will face disciplinary action for removing the two 14-year-old girls during a June 8 incident aboard his bus, TriMet officials said. But no details about the discipline were released.

The driver, an 11-year veteran, violated several agency procedures and policies, officials said.

The girls said the driver called them "sickos" after a female passenger complained about their kiss. He then stopped the bus along the street and forced them off.

The actions by the girls did not warrant being removed from the bus, and TriMet policy requires operators to call for assistance before removing any minors, TriMet said in a statement released Wednesday.

"TriMet sincerely apologizes to the girls and their families for this incident," Hansen said in the statement.

The mother of one of the girls, Ronnda Zezula, welcomed the apology.

"The only thing I had a problem with is they didn't really address why the driver broke those policies," Zezula said. "He knew it was wrong. He's been a driver for 11 years."

She also said she wished the agency had made the extent of the disciplinary action public to show it will not "be just a slap on the wrist."

Zezula said the family has been encouraged to consider a lawsuit, but they will "have to mull it over."

Melissa Chernaik, spokeswoman for Basic Rights Oregon, said the gay rights group has been in contact with Zezula and "we share the same set of concerns."

But Chernaik said the chief concern was that the girls were put in an unsafe situation.

"The fact that they were possibly singled out because they were two girls is obviously problematic," Chernaik said. "But the big issue is that teenagers were put at risk and they should not be. Keeping kids safe is really the problem, and it sounds like TriMet is dealing with that, as they should be." 

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)