Polk County, Fla. (CBS TAMPA) — The Polk County school district is ordering armed sheriff’s deputies to be placed on school buses going to and from the area alternative schools.
In response to widespread video footage of a 14-year-old boy being beaten unconscious on a Polk County bus, district officials are ordering a deputy on-board each bus headed to the Don Woods and Bill Duncan Opportunity Centers to crack down on such violent behavior, WTVT-TV reports.
“We are going to have order on that bus one way or another,” Polk School Board Chair Dick Mullenax told WTVT. “We provide transportation to those schools, but if they can’t behave, we will see where we go from there.”
The move is not permanent and Polk County Schools said in a statement that they are “reevaluating how we track student ridership information, in hopes of prevent such incidents,” with Mullenax adding that the deputies and students will not have an “adversarial relationship,” but will hopefully talk and learn from each other.
“In an effort to assure students are safe, all the buses serving Don E. Woods Opportunity Center and Bill Duncan Opportunity Center will have off-duty deputies on them by the end of the week,” the district said in a statement to WFLA-TV. “The bus that had the altercation was assigned an off-duty deputy last night. The bus driver has been removed from this bus pending the investigation.”
The mother of the 14-year-old who was knocked unconscious in the video, Alisha Styles, said she is glad that the changes are being made after she was told her son hadn’t been to school in two days, and that one of his attackers was supposed to be banned from a previous school fight.
Parents in the district support the move from the school district.
“Police officers are even better trained than teachers to respond to incidents,” Russ Pickup, a parent, told WTVT-TV. “They should be taught the message that police and sheriffs are authority figures they should feel safe around,” added Keisha Pickup, also a district parent.
This is the first time that Polk County deputies have been deployed to school buses.
“Nowadays the kids are beating up the grownups. It’s real bad, so yeah,” said LeShon Pervall, another parent expressing support for district’s move.
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