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Mathews divided over bus driver accusations

Published: Thu, February 18, 2010 @ 12:08 a.m.

By Jordan Cohen

The school board heard both sides of the dispute over the claim that a bus driver made an ethnic comment to a child.

VIENNA — More than 70 people packed Mathews High School cafeteria Wednesday as the controversy over the reported actions of a school-bus driver continued to rouse emotions in this small district.

The driver, Kathy Kotanichek of Burghill, was suspended for three days in November after she was accused of referring to a student of Lebanese descent on the bus as a terrorist.

The child’s mother, Carol Lynne Sassya, accused Kotanichek of repeated racial insults against her children and wants the board to fire her.

Since then, Kotanichek has been assigned duties in the bus garage and is no longer transporting students. She faces a hearing Wednesday in Girard Municipal Court on criminal charges related to the matter.

Ray Nakley of Youngstown, acting as a spokesman for the Sassya family, called on the board to conduct sensitivity training for its staff.

“There is still a responsibility for the people to understand it is not OK to call kids blanking terrorists when they exit a bus,” Nakley said.

It was Nakley’s second address to the board. He also spoke on the family’s behalf during a board work session in January.

However, a large group of people turned out at Wednesday night’s meeting to support Kotanichek. Many wore handmade yellow signs reading “We support our bus driver.”

“I don’t believe Kathy is a racist,” said their spokeswoman, Terri Tarr of Vienna, before the meeting. “And I would be sensitive to that because I’m part Native American.”

Tarr called for a peaceful solution while praising the embattled bus driver to the board.

“I believe Kathy would lay down her life for my children or your children,” she said.

“What you said is fine in lollipop world, but we live in a society where racism exists,” responded Sassya. “See what [Kotanichek] has done to my children?”

“We can’t do anything about this until this situation is resolved legally,” said Kenneth Wallace, board president.

After the meeting, Superintendent Lee Seiple said he will review the outcome of Kotanichek’s court case and recommend action at that point. He did not comment directly on what he would recommend, but Kotanichek could be fired, if convicted.

Meanwhile, in a surprising move, the board voted to table a resolution closing 90-year-old Neal Middle School at the end of the current school year. The board originally planned to transfer sixth-graders to Baker Elementary and move the seventh and eighth grades into trailers, but those plans have been put on hold.

“There are other options,” Wallace said, adding, “We’ll discuss them in work sessions and make a decision [about closing Neal] at our next board meeting.”


1Attis(1134 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Poor journalism. Why hide the facts of this clear case of years of ethnic intimidation and child endangering which actually add up to a hate crime? Is it because the victims are Arab-Americans?

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2Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

"Ray Nakley of Youngstown, acting as a spokesman for the Sassya family, called on the board to conduct sensitivity training for its staff."

After 9-11-01 many of us were sensitized . Palestinians danced in the streets of Patterson New Jersey in support of the so called magnificent nineteen who gave their lives in the battle against America . The celebrants weren't arrested . Now the same mentality wants to crucify Kathy Kotanichek . She was removed from her job for allegedly saying things to the Sassya children . But they want more . Is this in the interest of justice ? I doubt it .





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3vinglass(295 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

What exactly did she say? I would like to see the actual thing she said before I judge ..

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4Annie53(21 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

I would like to know about the behavior of the children involved.

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5Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Annie53 :

"I would like to know about the behavior of the children involved."

The children parrot what they are taught at home . Kathy Kotanichek is now the target of Carol Lynne Sassya's hatred .

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6super9incline(1 comment)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

I dont know about targets and all that. What i do know is that they have video evidence of the allegations made against the accused. The behavior of the children is that which is expected from any other child who suffers racial abuse by other individuals inside or outside school.

It is easy to explore just one avenue, regarding 9-11, we americans were not the only ones to be "sensitized". it has affected the lives of people throughout the country of all different racial and cultural backgrounds. At this point, letting the court decide is the best thing to do..

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