Sheriff: Polk school bus driver staged student fight
BY JOSÉ PATIÑO GIRONA, Tribune staff Tribune staff
Published: May 10, 2013
Updated: May 11, 2013 at 02:20 PM
Polk County bus driver Patrice Sanders decided to impose Fight Club rules on her school bus, authorities said. The Polk County Sheriff's Office said 29-year-old Sanders was upset that two girls – one 13, one 16 – were arguing on the bus after school Thursday. Other students on the bus later told deputies that Sanders said, “This is going to be handled today and they just need to fight.'' Sanders, who had picked up students from Bartow High, Gause Acadmey and Summerlin Academy, drove the school bus to her home in Lakeland, skipping her regular stops to drop off students, deputies said. Once there, she ordered the students off the bus and told the two girls she would find some Vaseline or baby oil to put on their faces so they wouldn't get scratched. Investigators said the younger girl said she didn't want to fight, but Sanders didn't call off the fight.
Sanders, who could be seen on a cell phone video making no effort to stop the fight, and the rest of the students watched the two girls fight; when it was over, Sanders put everyone back on the bus, the sheriff's office said. The two girls began fighting again on the bus; Sanders pulled the bus over and watched, investigators said. After the fight, Sanders told the kids on the bus, “What happens on the bus, stays on the bus,'' according to the sheriff's office. The 13-year-old girl's mother reported the incident to the sheriff's office that evening and took her daughter to the hospital; her injuries were minor. The sheriff's office interviewed the two girls, then arrested Sanders on Friday at her home. She faces a litany of charges, including child abuse, child neglect, false imprisonment and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The school district has fired Sanders. She had been a part-time bus driver for eight months and was promoted to a full-time position about a month ago, said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd at a Friday afternoon press conference. Judd called Sanders' actions “immoral” and “unethical.” “This is just unbelievable conduct,” Judd said. “It makes me very angry. We're going to stack every charge that we can stack on her.''