Fla. School Bus Driver Charged with Child Abuse
(BARTOW, Fla.) -- A Polk County, Fla. school bus driver who allegedly set up a fight between two teenage passengers and encouraged them to brawl in the front yard of her home is in custody, charged with two counts of child abuse, according to the county sheriff's office.
Authorities said Patrice Sanders, 29, of Lakeland, Fla., was driving students home from three different Bartow, Fla. area schools when she spotted two girls arguing in the back of the bus Thursday afternoon.
"This is going to be handled today and they just need to fight," Sanders reportedly said.
Instead of making her normal route, Sanders allegedly skipped the rest of the bus stops, drove 20 miles to her home, and ordered all 34 students on board to get off the bus. She reportedly even offered the 13-year-old and the 16-year-old who she thought needed to duke it out Vaseline or baby oil so they wouldn't scratch their faces.
The brawl, which was captured on video by another student, shows the two girls punching, kicking, and pulling each other's hair. In the recording, one of the girls is seen throwing her opponent into a barbecue grill.
Sanders did not try to stop the fight, and instead stood by and looked on until the two students decided to quit, according to a statement from the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
Following the fight, Sanders got the students back onto the bus, the statement said. But when the two girls continued to exchange blows, Sanders allegedly pulled over and refereed the second round.
"What happens on the bus, stays on the bus," Sanders reportedly told the passengers.
The 13-year-old's mother reported the incident to the Polk County Sheriff's Office and took her daughter to the hospital, the statement said. She was not seriously injured from the fight.
In addition to child abuse, Sanders was charged with false imprisonment, two counts of child neglect and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The two students involved in the scuffle were both charged with misdemeanor battery.
"Come on girl, what are you thinking? How in the world could you allow and promote and encourage children to fight?" Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
Sanders is in custody at the Polk County Jail. Additional charges against her are pending further interviews with other students onboard, according to the sheriff's office.
Sanders was due in court this morning.
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