The Rapid bus driver stops bus, refusing to drive until child with autism quieted

Posted at 6:27 PM, Jul 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-31 18:27:49-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A mother says a bus driver refused to drive further until her son was quiet, after she explained her son has autism.

"I shouldn’t have been discriminated because my son has special needs," said Porcha Silas to FOX 17 Tuesday.

Silas says she depends on public transit. Monday afternoon around 3:30 p.m., she and three of her children were riding a Rapid bus home, when her six-year-old son with autism was getting louder.  She says the bus driver stopped at the bus stop behind the YMCA in Grand Rapids, and walked up to confront her.

"The bus driver pulled the bus over, stopped and approached me," said Silas. "He walked and was like, ‘I’m not moving the bus until your son be quiet.'"

"Kids with autism, certain things trigger them: if there’s too many people on the bus, he kind of get a little overwhelmed. That doesn’t mean that I can’t ride transportation just because my son has autism."

Silas says she and her children had been riding that bus for several minutes when the bus driver refused to drive any further. She said he protested several minutes at the bus stop, then got off the bus as passengers were sticking up for her child.

"I don’t play when it comes to my kids and I’m going to take any measure that I have to take to make sure that my son is protected," said Silas, adding that her son was safely seated on the bus.

"My son shouldn’t have been singled out just because he has autism. He wasn’t doing anything to harm himself or others."

In response, The Rapid Marketing and Communications Manager Michael Bulthuis gave FOX 17 this statement:

"The Rapid is committed to providing excellent customer service. We take great pride in upholding The Rapid's communication principles of honesty, transparency and accountability. Based on our internal review at this time, an unfortunate miscommunication occurred [Monday]. While seeking to ensure quality service for all customers, The Rapid operator did not immediately understand that a child passenger is autistic. As soon as The Rapid operator became aware of the situation, the operator acted responsibly and within The Rapid's training protocols. We sincerely regret any miscommunication that this customer may have experienced. We also look forward to discussing with her how we will improve our service moving forward."