Saturday, May 21, 2005

Bus Brawl Down In Florida: Driver Vs. Students

Once upon a time on a school bus near Punta Gorda, Florida:

1. School bus driver Albert M. Taylor, 66 was trying to settle-down his load of 12 unruly passengers who are swearing at him. Taylor uses his two-way radio to call for a deputy.

2. He ordered 13-year-old Cory Gene Hendershot to come to the front of the bus.

3. Hendershot refuses to comply. At that point, Taylor leaves the driver's seat and goes to the back of the bus, "to get Hendershot."

4. Hendershot's brother, Mark Ernest Dickinson, 15, jumps into the aisle behind Taylor and curses him.

5. Taylor turns around, slaps Dickinson in the face, grabs him by the back of the neck, and shakes him back-and-forth. While maintaining his grip, Taylor shoves the boy down the aisle toward Hendershot, who is at the back of the bus.

6. The driver releases his grip, Dickinson immediately counter-punches Taylor in the face, who administers additional punches to Dickinson before retreating to the front of the bus.

7. Both Dickinson and Hendershot follow the operator to the front. Dickinson pushes Taylor in the chest who throws one more punch at the 15-year-old's head. Dickinson then says to Taylor, "I swear to God that I'll knock your glasses right off your head. You're going to jail."

8. Throughout the incident, children can be heard pleading with the combatants to cease their struggle.

9. Relative calm is finally restored after the boys leave the bus.

The driver has been arrested and charged with simple battery, (a misdemeanor) while the boys, both students of Punta Gorda Middle School, are facing felony charges of "assault or battery on a specified official or Employee."

Why on earth was the driver (who threw the first punch) charged with a misdemeanor while the boys (who can argue self-defense) were charged with felonies?

When I first saw the video of this over at the Fox News Channel, I couldn't believe my eyes. While it is true that the older boy did curse the driver, that's no excuse for Taylor to have struck the boy and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck.

As a classroom teacher who has had to cope with numerous unruly classes, I cannot imagine a situation that would warrant the type of violent response from the driver that I saw on the video. Taylor was clearly at fault in that he was the adult who was present and allowed his temper to get the best of him. I really don't see any justification for Taylor's violence against the students.

The question that remains unaddressed by anyone is how we as a society have come to the point where children feel that they are able to curse at adults.
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