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Four NJ teens face bias charges on school bus

December 17, 2010 3:14:32 PM PST
Four teenagers in New Jersey are charged with bias intimidation of their school bus driver.

It was at the intersection of Forest Avenue and 9th Street in Lakewood, New Jersey that a 49-year-old African American bus driver pulled over and called Lakewood Police on four teenage Orthodox Jewish boys.

"They were making racist comments. Then they threatened her," said Fred Rush, of the NAACP.

Sharon Peters told police that she was trying to get the kids to sit down during her Tuesday evening bus route, when the four teens refused and shouted, "You know the Ku Klux Klan hanged black people."

Peters wouldn't discuss the details when Eyewitness News spoke with her over the phone, only saying it wasn't the first time. Wednesday morning she called the NAACP hotline for help.

"As she was sitting, they were standing around her and she felt intimidated," Rush said.

Police say three 15-year-olds and a 14-year-old boy were arrested, and charged with bias intimidation, taken to the police department and then released to the custody of their parents.

The students attend an unnamed private Orthodox Jewish school.

But both public and private school students receive bus service from the Lakewood School District, which is investigating.

"My preliminary review says this incident is not the first alleged incident involving this driver, and that's concerning to me," said Michael Inzelbuch, the Lakewood School attorney.

Inzelbuch says there has been a history of complaints against Peters before Tuesday's incident, which she strongly denies.

The subcontractor, Klarr Transportation, declined comment.

Lakewood has a large Orthodox Jewish community, and there has been a long history of religious tensions, for example in November 2007, when a 14-year-old Jewish teen was assaulted.

After this most recent incident, the NAACP is reaching to Jewish leaders build religious and racial tolerance.

"I think there's a responsibility here with leadership in the African American community, I think there's a responsibility in the Orthodox community to say this is not acceptable," said Jim Waters, the President of the Ocean County-Lakewood NAACP.

There is now a camera placed on that bus route, and Peters has been reassigned to another route.

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