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Friday, July 06, 2007

School bus driver pleads not guilty to harassing Muslim kids

A school bus driver pleaded not guilty to hate crime charges involving the harassment of Muslim children.

Thomas Plaisted, 60, pleaded not guilty Thursday to two counts of evidencing prejudice while committing an offense.

Plaisted was arrested in May after he allegedly cursed and spit at the children in a Lynn Haven fast-food restaurant.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations held a news conference before the arraignment and demanded prosecutors not waiver on the felony charge and that the Bay District School Board fire Plaisted.

Ahmed Bedier, of organization's Tampa chapter, said the number of anti-Muslim incidents in Florida is increasing.

"We don't want to wait until it gets worse," he said.

According to Bay County Sheriffs Office reports, Plaisted was in a Taco Bell when a Muslim mother, wearing a traditional scarf, entered with her children.

When the mother went to the counter to order, Plaisted cursed and made threatening gestures at the children. He then uttered anti-Muslim epithets and spit food on one of the children, deputies reported. Plaisted also shoved an 11-year-old child, the report stated.

He left after customers and employees confronted him, according to his arrest report. [Link]

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