Bus driver staged student fight in her front yard, Polk County deputies say

Driver took middle school, high school students to her house

By Lisa Bell - Anchor , Erik Sandoval - Reporter


A Polk County school bus driver is expected to go before a judge Saturday morning, after being accused of forcing two students to fight.

Patrice Sanders, 29, was arrested on charges of child abuse, child neglect, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and false imprisonment.

[WATCH: RAW cell phone video of student fight]

Investigators said the entire brawl was recorded on other students' cell phones.

"Oh my gosh, this is pretty insane," said Ben Pariagua, who lives just down the street from Sanders. "I would imagine the bus driver would have some common sense, not to be fight clubbing."

Deputies said the incident began after Sanders loaded up her bus in Bartow Thursday afternoon and a 13-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl exchanged words.

"And all of a sudden, the school bus driver says and I quote, 'This is going to be handled today. They need to fight,'" said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

Sanders then allegedly drove the 34 students on board to her home, which is located 23 miles away.

Detectives said Sanders even offered the two girls some Vaseline to put on their face so they wouldn't get scratched.

Sheriff Judd said the teens fought to the point of exhaustion, but when they got back on the bus, they fought again.

"And you know what I want to say to Patrice?" asked Judd. "Come on girl, what are you thinking?"

Judd said Sanders then tried to cover her tracks by telling the kids, "What happens on the bus, stays on the bus."

For neighbors, like Pariagua who lives with his young nieces and nephews, it's appalling.

"Because she's still going to be in my neighborhood right? And in the end, I'll have to keep an eye out on her," said Pariagua.

The Polk County School district said Sanders is suspended without pay and is in the process of terminating her. She's been employed by the district since October 2012.

Sheriff Judd said Sanders has had one prior arrest. Judd said the arrest was for possession of marijuana and would not have kept her from being hired as a bus driver.

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