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Cameras to go aboard all Duval school buses

By Associated Press
Published February 14, 2004

JACKSONVILLE - Duval County's school superintendent said Friday he was outraged when he saw a video of seven students beating up another youngster on a school bus and pledged to put video cameras and recorders in each of the district's 1,000 buses.

Superintendent John Fryer said swift action will be taken against the seven Landon Middle School students who are seen on the videotape punching the victim for about 30 seconds as he cowers in his seat. He was not seriously injured in the Feb. 4 attack, which occurred as the bus was taking students home from school.

The tape got national television news exposure.

The seven students have been suspended and could be expelled. The state Attorney's Office may also take action, after reviewing a report being prepared by investigators with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

"I was as outraged as everyone who saw that videotape," said Fryer, who was joined by School Board members and the principal of Landon Middle School, Jackie Christopher, at a press conference.

"We will not tolerate these kinds of misbehaviors."

The names of the alleged attackers, the oldest about 15, were not released because of their ages. The seven "will not be back at Landon this year," said Marsha Oliver, a school spokeswoman.

Fryer said some buses already have cameras and video recorders. He refused to estimate the cost of equipping those that don't.

In many cases, Fryer said, the district has trouble determining what happened when an incident occurs on a bus, or convincing parents their children did wrong. "Now we can prove what happened," he said.

The bus driver is on administrative leave while the school bus contractor, First Student, determines whether he acted appropriately, said Lou Rich, a company official.

Fryer and Rich said bus drivers are not allowed to touch students and are advised not to get involved in altercations.

Rich said the driver pulled the bus over after the beating and asked the victim if he was all right. He turned the video over to superiors after completing his route.

[Last modified February 14, 2004, 01:31:45]

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