August 10th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

My View: Why I won't break up a school fight

By Robyn Barberry, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Robyn Barberry teaches English and drama at a Maryland high school. With her husband, she manages Legends of the Fog, a haunted attraction with more than 200 teen volunteers. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction from Goucher College and blogs about motherhood for The Catholic Review.

(CNN) - In Florida, a 64-year-old bus driver has been criticized for failing to physically intervene in a three-on-one fight that took place in July. The bus driver says he was afraid to step in. As a high school teacher, I can't blame him.

The adults who work in public schools are outnumbered. When a violent, hormone-fueled scene unfolds, it's our duty to quell the calamity with every resource we have in the name of safety. But where do we draw the line?

Early in my teaching career, I was afraid of some of the bigger boys at school, especially one. I could see he carried a great deal of hatred inside - for me, for his classmates, for the world. He was tall and muscular; he could have been an athlete, but his poor grades, bad attitude and spotty record kept him from playing sports.

One afternoon, as I waited outside my classroom door, I heard a scuffle behind me. The boy I feared and another, smaller boy were shoving each other by my white board. I stepped in, and told them to stop. When they didn't, I shouted louder and told another student, my go-to helper, to get another teacher. As the shoves turned to punches, rage grew in the larger boy's eyes. The other student asked him to stop, but he had thrust his hands around his neck. I tried to pull him free, but the large boy shoved, pressing the other student and my arm against the cinder block wall. I felt trapped and frightened, and thought I might black out. Just then, two male teachers pulled the boys apart and dragged them to the office.

"Are you OK?" a third teacher said. "Look at your hand!"

My wrist was red and swollen. It hurt, but not as much as knowing I wasn't safe in my own classroom. My neighbor teacher took over my class so that I could go to the office to fill out an incident report. I could barely grip the pen. Two police officers assigned to our school urged me to file assault charges against the boys, but I insisted they just hadn't seen me. I wanted to believe that they wouldn't hurt me, but I also wondered if the boy would retaliate if the law got involved.

Fortunately, my wrist was only sprained and I returned to work the next day in a cumbersome brace. But I kept wondering, what if the boy had pushed the other one harder? What if his anger was directed at me? Suppose it was my head that was smashed against that cinderblock wall? What if he'd had a weapon?

On the other side, what if adrenaline gave me undiscovered strength and I had hurt one of them? Could their parents sue me? Would I lose my job?

Read Barberry's full column

August 5th, 2013
09:24 AM ET

Driver says he did all he could during Florida school bus beating

By Pamela Brown, CNN

(CNN) - The windmilling fists and stomping feet rain down blows on the 13-year-old boy.

Trapped on the floor between the bus seats, he cries out as he receives fierce punch after vicious kick from the three bigger, older youths.

As the relentless assault unfolds, the driver of the Florida school bus alerts the dispatcher, pleading for aid.

But he doesn't physically step in to help.

The bus driver, at least according to his school's policy, did nothing wrong.

'Get somebody here quick'

The attack took place July 9 in Pinellas County, Florida. But the horrific cell phone video - and the surveillance video - came out only recently.

As the boy is pummeled, the bus driver John Moody yells at the assailants to leave the boy alone.

He also asks dispatchers to send help.

"You gotta get somebody here quick, quick, quick, quick," he says. "They're about to beat this boy to death over here."

"Please get somebody here quick. There's still doing it," he adds. "There's nothing I can do."

Moody, 64, says he was too afraid to step in.

"The three boys just jumped on him and started pounding on him. And I did all can," he told CNN affiliate WFLA. "I was looking. It was like I was in shock. I was petrified."

Not required to intervene

The ferocity of the attack left the 13-year-old with two black eyes and a broken arm.

"There was clearly an opportunity for him to intervene and or check on the welfare of the children or the child in this case and he didn't make any effort to do so," Chief Robert Vincent of Gulfport Police Department told the affiliate.

According to Pinellas County school policy, the bus driver isn't required to intervene, only to call dispatch.

He can step in, if he feels it's safe.

Other counties actually forbid drivers from physically stopping fights.

Read the full story

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Filed under: Bus driver • Florida • School bus safety • School violence
June 5th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

Bus driver loses job over Facebook post about hungry student

(CNN) - Haralson County, Georgia, school bus driver Johnny Cook couldn't get the story out of his head: A middle school student told him he hadn't eaten, and had been turned away from the lunch line because he owed 40 cents. Cook wrote about it on Facebook, and the story spread.

Haralson County Superintendent Brett Stanton says it didn't happen that way; the child would have been offered a bagged lunch, Stanton told CNN affiliate WGCL, but he didn't go through the lunch line.

Cook says he still believes the student; the bus driver was fired after he refused to remove the Facebook post and apologize. "I'm proud that I was able to take a stand where others might not have been able to, and that I can maybe, in some little way, cause a change," Cook told WGCL.

It's not the first time a student has reported going without a meal because of school lunch debt; in some cases, they've been told to dump the food they've selected and are given an alternative snack, such as cheese and juice. Middle school students in Attleboro, Massachusetts, were turned away from lunch earlier this year, and about 40 elementary students in Edgewood, Kentucky, went without regular lunch during state testing period because of overdrawn accounts, CNN affiliate WCPO reported.

How should schools handle kids whose lunch accounts are overdrawn? What's your school's policy? Share your experiences and ideas in the comments or on Twitter @CNNschools.

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Filed under: Bus driver • School lunch • Technology