Anniston school bus stop sparks controversy
by Paige Rentz
prentz@annistonstar.com
Sep 05, 2013 | 8597 views |  0 comments | 77 77 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Protest in front of Skinner's Cash and carry in Anniston on Thursday.  Parent Jennifer Jones speaks. Photo by Bill Wilson.
Protest in front of Skinner's Cash and carry in Anniston on Thursday. Parent Jennifer Jones speaks. Photo by Bill Wilson.
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An argument over where a group of Golden Springs Elementary students should catch the school bus on Coleman Road has led to allegations that an employee of a local business used racist language.

Parents and community members held a press conference Thursday in front of Skinner’s Cash & Carry on Coleman Road to bring to light disrespectful treatment they said they received from an employee there last week.

“We should not have to be here because of the racial slurs that were made by the employees of this company,” said Taribian Sanders, mother of one of the students. “It’s 2013, and we’re just not going to tolerate it.”

A group of women whose children have for two years caught the bus in front of Skinner’s said an employee there confronted them on Aug. 26 about gathering in front of the business and then shouted racist terms at them two days later.

The three families live in apartment buildings along Warrior Road across Coleman Road from Skinner’s, a convenience store supplier.

Jennifer Jones, who was waiting with her two children on Aug. 26, said the man told the women “I know how you people are,” a statement she said could be taken many ways. But she said her suspicions were confirmed on Aug. 28 when the man called her a “black bitch” and invited her to perform a sex act on him.

“I was very hurt by it,” she said.

Jones said the encounter on Aug. 26 occurred in front of the children, which led her niece to ask her that evening what kind of people they were.

“Where people think they’re not listening, they’re listening,” she said. “And she’s only five.”

Louis Skinner, owner of the business, declined to comment on anything other than the location of the bus stop. He said that a Calhoun County bus drives into the apartments to pick the kids up in a safe environment and that Anniston could do the same.

Although most land along Coleman Road is inside Anniston city limits, there are pockets of property which are not. Children who live in the easternmost buildings of the apartment complex are zoned for Anniston City Schools, and those who live on the western end of the complex are zoned for White Plains in the Calhoun County district.

The Rev. Ben Little, the pastor of Refuge Full Gospel Methodist Church who helped organize the press conference Thursday, noted that Aug. 28 was the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“We understand there is still some racial tension and hatred among us, and this community and this nation must rise to the occasion and state what it is,” Little said. “You cannot stick your head in the sand and say everything is all right now.”

Schools Superintendent Joan Frazier said Wednesday that officials last week changed the location of the bus stop on Coleman Road that serves Anniston City Schools students.

“It was changed as soon as we were made aware there was a problem,” she said. She said she and the district’s transportation director still are assessing whether the new stop will be permanent.

Frazier said that the original stop was on property that had been vacant for about two years, but then Skinner’s opened there over the summer. When school resumed this fall, she said, the owners of the property never contacted school officials about the stop, instead attempting to change the stop on his own. Frazier called that improper.

“We were not contacted by the property owner,” Frazier said. “We were contacted by parents who had expressed concern over some of the interactions” at the bus stop.

Mark Everett, a supervisor at CST, the school district’s transportation contractor, said Thursday another change is in the works — to have the bus drive down Warrior Road and pick up children in front of their apartments.

When notified of the expected change, Skinner said that’s exactly what he and his employees had been trying to accomplish.

“That’s what I’d want my children to be given,” he said, adding that the change allows children to stand under their porches when it rains.

Requests for bus-stop changes aren’t unusual, especially at the beginning of the school year, Everett said.

“When property owners ask us to move a stop somewhere, we try to comply where safety and other factors allow us to move them,” Everett said.

Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.

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