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Another mom in trouble over bus

A woman is arrested after she gets on a school bus and slaps a boy, police say.

By MELANIE AVE, Times Staff Writer
Published September 25, 2007

Karen L. Barber, 34, faces a misdemeanor battery charge.

ST. PETERSBURG - A mother and her teenage daughter face misdemeanor battery charges after police say they boarded a school bus and slapped a 13-year-old boy in an act of reprisal.

Karen L. Barber, 34, and her 15-year-old daughter were angry at the boy because he had recently punched Barber's 12-year-old son while on the bus, said George Kajtsa, a St. Petersburg police spokesman. The other boy reportedly punched Barber's son because he had taken his school folder and wouldn't give it back.

Friday's incident comes just days after a Hillsborough County mother was sentenced to a year in jail after she boarded a school bus and encouraged her 9-year-old daughter to fight a 10-year-old girl who had slapped her daughter.

The March 2 fight made national news after video from the bus' surveillance camera was released. In it, Shayla Muldrow tells her daughter: "Take off your jacket and take care of your business."

This is how police say events unfolded about 9:30 a.m. Friday in St. Petersburg:

Barber and her daughter, who was not named because of her age, forced their way onto the Riviera Middle School-bound bus at 16th Avenue and Sixth Street S.

They started yelling at the boy for punching Barber's son. Barber, who is 5-foot-10 and weighs 240 pounds, is "poking her finger at his forehead," Kajtsa said. "She's talking to him. Yelling at him. She slaps him on the left side but not very hard."

Then her daughter, who is also screaming, strikes the boy twice on the right side of his face, according to police. His head spun to the side.

The two boys are cousins, Kajtsa said.

The mother and daughter left the bus when asked by the bus driver.

Barber, who has no prior criminal history, was arrested Friday night and taken to the Pinellas County Jail. She paid her bond and was released early Saturday morning. Her daughter was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center.

Pinellas County School District spokeswoman Andrea Zahn said the bus driver, John Simajchel, 62, was reassigned Monday to a different work site where no children are located, pending an internal investigation to "see if he acted appropriately in this situation."

A bus driver's primary responsibility is to keep passengers safe, she said.

Barber did not return a call seeking comment.

School officials say it is rare for a parent to get on a bus without permission, which can be considered trespassing.

In the case of Muldrow, the Hillsborough County mother, school district spokesman Stephen Hegarty said bus driver awareness has been raised since she got on the bus with her daughter and encouraged the fight.

"As a result of that incident on that bus," Hegarty said, "bus drivers are even more aware of the possible dangers of a parent who tries to get on the school bus."

Much of the attention surrounding Muldrow's case stemmed from the widely distributed video of the two girls fighting. But Pinellas County school officials refused to release the video of Friday's incident, citing student confidentiality.

Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report. Melanie Ave can be reached at or 727 893-8813.

Fast facts

What to do if you're bullied

- Tell your parents, a trusted teacher, counselor or principal.

- Do not retaliate or get angry.

- Try to defuse the situation.

- Respond evenly and firmly or else say nothing and walk away.

How to avoid bullying

- Sit near the bus driver on the bus.

- Take a different route to and from school.

- Avoid unsupervised areas of the school.

- Avoid being alone at your locker or in the bathroom.

How to prevent being bullied

- Develop friendships. A bully is more likely to leave you alone if you are with friends.

- Develop interests in social and physical activities.

- Act confident. A bully is less likely to single you out if you project confidence.

Source: Center for the Studyand Prevention of Violence


[Last modified September 24, 2007, 21:33:23]

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