Charges filed in beating on bus

Thursday, February 26, 2004

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Six students videotaped by a school bus surveillance camera as they beat another student were arrested Wednesday on charges of misdemeanor battery.

The video, shown nationally by television news, showed 14- and 15-year-old students punching a 12-year-old boy for about 30 seconds as he cowered in his bus seat. He was not seriously injured in the Feb. 4 incident.

"We have arrested the individuals responsible for the attack on this innocent young man," State Attorney Harry Shorstein said.

The names of the victim and those arrested will not be released since they are juveniles and the cases will be prosecuted in juvenile court. One more juvenile is still being sought.

Penalties for the first-degree misdemeanor range from probation to 120 days in a juvenile detention facility, Shorstein said.

"The actions of these juveniles endangered the other students on the bus, the driver and those on the street," Shorstein said.

As a result of the incident, Duval County School Superintendent John Fryer ordered video cameras and recorders installed in each of the district's 1,000 school buses.

The youths have also been suspended from school until a hearing officer can determine additional punishment, including possible expulsion.

The bus driver, whose name was withheld by school officials, was placed on administrative leave while the bus company, First Student, determines whether he followed district policy.

First Student officials have said the driver quickly pulled the bus over when the fracas started, but didn't physically intervene because drivers are not allowed to touch students.

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