Marion County schools ‘stepping up discipline’ after increase in fights on buses

MCPS documents average of 100 incidents on school buses each month

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – “Riding a school bus in Florida is a privilege, not a right. This means bus transportation is never guaranteed and can be taken away if students abuse the privilege.”

That was part of a message that went out to parents from Marion County Public Schools Wednesday. Bus drivers with the district are fed up with students acting up.

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“Our first priority is safety for students and the drivers. The increased concerns we’re seeing is standing, changing of seats, not keeping hands to themselves and fights. We’ve had an increased number of physical alternations,” Director of Transportation Rebecca Rora said.

The latest fight broke out Wednesday morning with middle school students on a bus, according to the school district. Rora said the driver had to pull over and call the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

“The bus driver was struck about the face and other parts of the body, in an effort to keep the children apart. They are OK,” Rora said.

According to Marion County deputies, the fight involved two Liberty Middle School students. No word yet if any charges will be filed.

Most incidents are caught on camera. Each bus is equipped with two cameras: One facing the door, the other facing the seats. The district is not releasing any of the footage to News 6 per its privacy policy.

The district said the surveillance footage is reviewed by the school’s dean who will ultimately make the decision on how that student will be disciplined. That student could be suspended from riding the bus.

On average about 100 incidents are documented each month, according to the school district. All while the district is still dealing with a shortage of drivers.

“We’re still struggling to get the number of staff that we need,” Rora said.

In the meantime, the district is finalizing a contract with a third-party transportation company that will provide temporary drivers to help cover the routes.

“My message to parents is that we’re soliciting your help to help manage some of the behaviors we’re seeing,” Rora said.

The Marion County School District sent messages to parents’ phones Wednesday with the following message:

“Good evening. This is the district office of Marion County Public Schools with an important message about school buses.

Riding a school bus in Florida is a privilege, not a right. This means bus transportation is never guaranteed and can be taken away if students abuse the privilege.

Our bus drivers do amazing things every day transporting more than 20,000 students safely. Their safety cannot and will not be jeopardized by students who choose to break the rules and misbehave.

Students not willing to follow the rules can be suspended from the bus for significant periods of time. This puts parents or other family members in the driver’s seat to get their students to and from school … a major inconvenience for most families.

For this reason, the safety of everyone on our buses, and to protect bus drivers who already have a tough job, our district is stepping up discipline for misbehaving on the bus.

We encourage you to discuss the privilege of riding the bus with your children, why the opportunity to do so exists, and what can happen if students break the rules.

Again, bus transportation is never guaranteed because it is a privilege to ride the bus.

We appreciate your assistance in helping our students make the right choice when they board the bus every morning and afternoon.

Thanks for your time, and have a great evening.”

About the Author:

Crystal Moyer is a morning news anchor who joined the News 6 team in 2020.