A school bus service in Florida has refused to carry Iraqi and Afghani refugee students for a second time in a week.
Some 27 students aged between 10 and 14 were abandoned outside Jacksonville last Wednesday, over eight miles away from home.
A substitute Duval County school bus driver – “Mrs Boston” – singled out hijab-wearing girls and “foreign-looking” boys, ordering them to get out.
Ali al-Hamad said his children, along with as many others from Fort Caroline Middle School, were kicked off their bus because they were Muslim.
"We feel so sorry" that the situation happened, said Zahra Diya al-Din, a 14-year-old student who was on the school bus.
"Why did [the bus driver] put us down on the bus? We weren't doing anything."
Some of the students were even fasting, but nevertheless had to walk the whole distance home under the Florida sun.
Concerned parents contacted the school, which informed them that nothing could be done other than to make sure the driver was not given responsibility for these particular students again.
But students were stunned two days later when a school bus with a different driver stopped briefly at 08:30 to pick up two white students and left all the others at a busy intersection.
Angry parents contacted the school to be told that a second bus would pick the children up, which eventually turned up at 10:00.
Many have decided to keep their children at home until a trustworthy service can be provided.
School system officials said they are working with the bus company to determine what happened.
"We are working cooperatively with First Student [the bus contractor] to determine what happened," Superintendent John Fryer said.
Zahra Diya al-Din (L) was unable
to understand the driver's bigotry
"We are committed to employing contractors who share our mission of providing safe and reliable services to students."
One teacher picked up some of the students in her car and took them to their homes, Fryer said.
Bus company comment
According to First Student, a small group of students was removed from the bus before its departure because of disciplinary problems.
A spokesman for the Council of American Islamic Relations told Aljazeera.net on Monday that although such behaviour is shocking, it is unsurprising.
But Ahmad Bedier said a lot of misinformation and bigotry were rife in Jacksonville.
“Jerry Vines, for example, a former preacher for the Southern Baptist Covention described the Prophet Muhammad as a peadophile possessed by the devil.
“His comments were not condemned by many leading members of the community – which suggests his comments were condoned.”
Bedier said there were many other examples, and described a pastor’s poster that declared "Jesus condemned murder, Muhammad approved murder".
“Nevertheless, it still amazes me that a bus driver can just abandon the trust given to her by dozens of parents and act in such an uncaring way.”