Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Can Area School Bus Drivers Stop Fights? How They Can Respond at Issue in Wake of the Pinellas County Incident

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Can Area School Bus Drivers Stop Fights? How They Can Respond at Issue in Wake of the Pinellas County Incident

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski

Northeast Florida school bus drivers are expected to intervene to varying degrees but aren't required to jeopardize their personal safety to break up fights between students, school system officials say.

"You are not useful, if you are down. Your responsibility is to the whole bus of students," said Joe Purvis, transportation director for the St. Johns County School District.

St. Johns and neighboring First Coast county school systems have policies similar to Pinellas County where a school bus driver has come under fire for not physically intervening when three 15-year-old boys brutally beat and stomped a 13-year-old boy last month.

Now retired, the 64-year-old driver radioed for help and pleaded with the older teens to stop beating the younger one, who sustained a broken arm and other injuries. Police wanted to charge him with child neglect, but prosecutors said there were no grounds for it. Bus drivers aren't required to intervene, according to Pinellas school district policy.

Whether First Coast bus drivers physically step in depends on the circumstances. Factors include the age, size and number of students involved in the fight, whether any have weapons and the risk to other students on the bus. The school district's policy also determines what measures whether solely verbal commands or other non-physical means that bus drivers are allowed to use to break up fights.

Although private contractors, Duval County bus drivers are required to follow Duval County Public Schools policy and procedures.

"We do not allow our school bus drivers to touch students, per district policy," said Blaine Krage, spokesman for Durham School Services, one of Duval's main school bus providers.

Marsha Oliver, Duval schools spokeswoman, the district's procedures generally instruct bus drivers to stop and focus on the safety of the bus and students, and to immediately request law enforcement or emergency personnel. …

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