HAINES CITY – The Polk County School Board is investigating a bus driver who is accused of making inappropriate comments and distributing religious material to an elementary school student who has same-sex parents.
Nathaly Encarnacion says that her son, a second-grader at Alta Vista Elementary, was told that his mothers would go to hell because they are gay by his school bus driver Violeta Jacobo on Feb. 8.
“When he was getting off the bus it came up in conversation that he has two moms,” Encarnacion says. “The bus driver said to him that you must be mistaken; you mean just a mom. And he told her ‘no, I have two moms,’ and then she told him that God does not like that.”
Jacobo referenced the Bible and then gave Encarnacion’s son a Jehovah’s Witness business card that directed him to a website which Jacobo said had videos that he should watch. When he got home he gave Encarnacion the card.
When Encarnacion’s partner got home they spoke with their son, and that’s when they got the full story of what Jacobo had said.
“He told me and my partner that we shouldn’t be together, that it isn’t right. He didn’t have all the information correct when we got together. He thought that this was OK, but now he doesn’t want to be left out of heaven just because of us. He said we need to break up, pack up our stuff and move,” Encarnacion says. “That whole night, we were devastated. We cried ourselves to sleep. It was a rough night for us.”
Encarnacion contacted the school the next day and told them what happened, but was told to leave her information and someone would call her back. No one ever did.
“I called back and left messages. We went around and around for about a week,” Encarnacion says. “I was so furious and I started calling the media.”
Even after the media started to report on it, Encarnacion says nothing was done until she decided to put herself on the agenda for the next school board meeting for March 14, more than a month after the incident.
Members of the Polk Pride board, including Kerri McCoy, attended the meeting. McCoy is also president of PFLAG of Polk County.
“During the meeting,[Board Member Billy Townsend] asked to make a motion to issue an apology to the LGBT community,” McCoy says.
Townsend apologized to Encarnacion and her family, and offered his support to them. His motion to issue an official apology to Encarnacion, her family and the LGBT community did not get seconded.
“[School board chair Kay Fields] went on to say that everyone gets discriminated against. It’s just a part of life that everyone has to deal with,” McCoy says. “I couldn’t take it anymore. I was sitting in the auditorium, and apparently you’re not supposed to speak out of turn, but I said, ‘are you serious? That’s all you can say to this family?’ All they wanted was a simple apology and that’s all she could say to them?”
Watermark reached out to the Polk County School Board.
“We are aware of the serious allegations against bus driver Violeta Jacobo, and currently an internal investigation is taking place,” said Jason Geary, senior coordinator of media relations for Polk County Public Schools. “It has never been the policy of the Polk County School District for employees to speak with students about religious matters. We are deeply concerned that one of our employees has been accused of such behavior. This employee has been placed on paid administrative leave while we conduct our internal investigation. As part of this inquiry, we will be speaking with the student’s mother. Counseling services are available for the student upon the family’s request. We will not be providing interviews or further comments at this time due to the pending nature of our internal investigation.”
No time frame has been given has to how long the investigation will take, but in the end, Encarnacion says she is not looking for Jacobo to be fired.
“I’m not out to get this woman personally, but she works for a government agency,” Encarnacion says.”I feel that when things like this happen, somebody should be held responsible.”