College-based bus company pays $100K settlement for racist policies
Atty. Gen. Raoul forces consent decree on Suburban Express
By Ted Cox
A bus company serving Illinois college students agreed to pay a $100,000 settlement as part of a consent decree resulting from racist marketing and policies.
Attorney General Kwame Raoul forced the consent decree on Suburban Express, signed last week after the original suit was filed last year by his predecessor, Lisa Madigan. It calls on the bus company — which specializes in shuttling Illinois university students between home and campus — to pay $100,000 and “enables eligible customers to seek refunds,” according to a news release put out by Raoul’s office.
The original suit charged that the company and its owner, Dennis Toeppen, “discriminated against customers on the basis of race, national origin, and religion; harassed customers with public shame and ridicule; and intentionally compromised customers’ personal information,” the release added.
The company originally came under fire in December 2017, when it circulated an email to customers promising rides to “passengers like you. You won’t feel like you’re in China when you’re on our buses.”
That was especially felt at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which has aggressively recruited Chinese exchange students over the last decade in a program that’s been deemed an overwhelming success.
According to the Office of the Attorney General, the suit additionally charged that Suburban Express “encouraged its employees to avoid certain students who appear not to speak English when distributing coupons for bus services,” and that Toeppen “posted an online video mocking Asian students” at UIUC. “Toeppen also published web pages attacking individual customers and published full credit-card numbers and bank-account numbers online.”
“For too long, students traveling from university campuses to their homes have done so under the fear of being subjected to discrimination and harassment by Suburban Express and its owner,” Raoul said in a statement. “This consent decree brings an end to Mr. Toeppen’s reprehensible business practices and ensures that students receive fair and equal access to Suburban Express’s services.”
The consent decree, which Raoul’s office will monitor for compliance, prohibits the company “from engaging in discriminatory conduct that is based on race, national origin, or religion. … Additionally, Suburban Express is prohibited from releasing customers’ personal information and must take steps to ensure all customers’ records are protected from unauthorized access.”
Raoul encouraged customers who felt discriminated against or otherwise cheated to seek refunds on the Suburban Express website starting April 30.