POLK COUNTY, Fla. – A Polk County School District employee and a 15-year-old student were arrested Wednesday after an argument led to a brief tussle aboard a school bus, according to the sheriff’s office.
Polk County deputies responded to Freedlander Road and Sally Street in Lake Wales where the school bus attendant told authorities she had been assaulted by the Frostproof Middle Senior High School student.
News 6 is not naming the 15-year-old.
Algarene Richards, 68, told deputies the student was putting his feet up on the bus seats and when he was asked to stop they got into a verbal altercation. Richards started recording the student and he threatened to take her cellphone, according to her account. To which she responded, “go ahead” and the student then attempted to grab her phone, pushing her in the process, deputies said.
Deputies initially arrested the 15-year-old on battery charges but after reviewing the bus security video they determined the battery went both ways, according to the arrest report.
According to the video, Richards became engaged in a verbal altercation when she started recording the student. The bus monitor was observed striking the student in the video.
When she was arrested, deputies said Richards told them she “retaliated” because the student took her phone. Deputies reminded her of her earlier statement telling the 15-year-old to “go ahead” and “take it,” according to the arrest report.
“Students have no right to become physically violent with a school board employee. Similarly, adults who are in a position of authority cannot use excessive physical violence against a student,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement. “In this case, the facts demonstrated that both involved should be criminally charged.”
Richards is charged with one count of child abuse. She was fired from the school district the day of the incident.
“Every day, Polk County Public Schools is entrusted with safely transporting tens of thousands of students to and from school. Like we do at our campuses, we strive to create school bus environments in which students feel supported, encouraged and, most important of all, safe,” Deputy Superintendent John Hill said. “We hold ourselves, our employees and our students to the highest of standards of behavior and respect for one another. Violence of any kind will not be tolerated. We thank the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for their swift and thorough response to this incident.”