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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
TAMPA - Until the first stop on 25th Street, only the quiet voices of children filled Bus No. 3866.
Then the doors opened, a mother and her two daughters entered, and chaos interrupted the March 2 morning ride to Booker T. Washington Elementary School.
Four minutes later, officials had Exhibit A in what is now a misdemeanor case against the mother, Shayla A. Muldrow: a school bus videotape police say shows Muldrow encouraging her daughter to fight.
The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office released an altered version of the video Tuesday that blurred the children's faces to conceal their identities.
Muldrow's words, actions and array of tattoos remained clear.
"First of all, where's the girl who slapped my girl?" Muldrow, 26, asked the bus driver.
She didn't wait for an answer. She marched to the back of the bus, where a 10-year-old girl had raised her hand.
"Help me out, madam," the driver protested. "Help me out, madam."
Muldrow ignored him. She told her daughter to take off her jacket and "take care of her business," according to reports.
"Why'd you put your hands on her?" Muldrow asked the girl.
The 10-year-old girl admitted to police that she argued with Muldrow's 9-year-old daughter two days before. She said she "lightly slapped" the 9-year-old's cheek.
Muldrow's daughter, who didn't go to school the next day, told her mother.
Police reports did not identify the children. The 10-year-old's small voice could be heard on the video offering an explanation.
"Whatever," Muldrow retorted. "Whatever."
Children start yelling. Muldrow yelled back. The driver called for police.
Thin arms, fists and elbows flailed in front of Muldrow. She pushed away a boy after he threw a punch, then pulled one of her daughters from the pack. She stood back, hand on hip, and watched the fight. The 10-year-old girl told Tampa police that she was struck several times in the head and arms but not seriously injured.
Seconds later, Muldrow walked to the front of the bus.
"Hold on," she said. "I didn't want this to happen."
But she returned again, continuing to yell at children who yelled at her. The 10-year-old said Muldrow's 9-year-old daughter pulled her by the hair until her mother said, "Let's go."
Police arrested Muldrow a couple of hours later, her 15th arrest since 1996. Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi said Muldrow faces up to two consecutive one-year jail sentences if convicted of trespassing and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
She initially faced a felony battery charge, but prosecutors dropped it because she did not physically participate in the fight.
School spokesman Steve Hegarty said the school system had not seen the tape because police took it immediately after the incident, but it was his understanding that Muldrow's daughter had been disciplined for initiating the fight.