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?
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.
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By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) - The drama began last week when a gunman boarded a Dale County, Alabama, school bus, shot and killed the driver and grabbed a 5-year-old boy. It ended days later with the boy, Ethan, rescued from a bunker where he was held hostage, and his 65-year-old abductor dead.
Now that Ethan is safe, even celebrating his 6th birthday this week, officials are poring over the details of how the case unfolded, starting on the school bus.
It played out over 4½ minutes, a scene captured by a camera mounted at the front of the bus. It's a security measure common on buses now.
Witnesses and officials who reviewed the recording said Jimmy Lee Dykes boarded the bus with a gun and handed a note to the driver demanding to take several children. The driver, Charles Poland, refused. He stood, placing himself between the gunman and the students.
Meanwhile, older students opened an emergency exit on the back of the bus and ran away from the bus. They knew what to do: Twice-per-year emergency drills reminded them how to evacuate.
Follow CNN's Schools of Thought blog on Twitter, @CNNschools.
Nearly 45 million kids ride the bus daily during the school year. Annually, dozens of bus accidents put kids in danger. A group of elementary school students learns important steps to school bus safety that can save lives. (From HLN Weekend Express)