School bus driver and two students arrested after brawl
PUNTA GORDA -- Charlotte County sheriff's deputies arrested a Charlotte County school bus driver and two Punta Gorda Middle School students Wednesday after the three were involved in a fight on the way home from school.
The driver, Albert M. Taylor, 66, 27205 Jones Loop Road, Punta Gorda, told deputies he was having a problem with a few students who were causing a disruption. He stopped the bus and got out of his seat to speak to a student. He forcibly put a seat belt on the male student, then returned to his seat and called the Sheriff's Office.
According to the arrest reports:
Taylor said he asked Corey Gene Hendershot, 13, three times to come to the front of the bus but he refused. Taylor then walked to the rear of the bus to get Hendershot to come to the front. Mark Ernest Dickinson, 15, Hendershot's older brother, jumped into the aisle and headed for the driver, cursing at him. Taylor turned around, allegedly slapped Dickinson in the face and grabbed him by the throat. A struggle continued and Hendershot became involved and started toward Taylor.
Taylor headed to the front of the bus and Dickinson followed. Taylor said he turned around and Dickinson pushed him in the chest and hit him in the face. Hendershot then walked up to Taylor and punched him in the right side. A videotape on the bus was running during the entire incident and was sealed and placed into evidence.
Deputies went to Taylor's home and advised him he had committed a battery on a juvenile. Taylor told the deputy, "I am not sure that this was a crime."
He was charged with simple battery, a misdemeanor. The brothers, Hendershot and Dickinson, were also arrested and charged with felony assault or battery on specified officials or employees.
"I cannot comment on anything at this time," Taylor said Thursday from his home after being released from jail. "I was told by the judge not to. I'm sorry, I would love to say something, but I can't at this time.
The two boys were arrested and released into the custody of their parents.
Charlotte County Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Employee Relations Tom Young said Taylor was placed on suspension with pay as soon as the school district became aware of the incident.
"We will be recommending suspension without pay on Tuesday," Young said.
The decision, according to Young, was based on a review of the videotape and information provided by the Sheriff's Office.
"We will continue to keep him (Taylor) on the suspension until local law enforcement is finished conducting its investigation," Young said Thursday. "Once they complete theirs, we will review their product and determine if we need to conduct our own investigation."
Young said Taylor, who has been a bus driver for the county since 2001, has had no previous incidents like the one on Wednesday. A review of his personal file showed Taylor to have a near-perfect track record with only two minor warnings concerning traffic lights. In an employee review in 2003, Taylor had a perfect score, having all "effective performance" marks -- the highest someone can score.
School Board Chairwoman Barbara Rendell said she could not comment on the incident but said everyone should be assured the district will handle the incident professionally.
"We make it a policy to not get involved with human resource matters because we just don't have all the information," Rendell said Thursday.
To love the times we have
To like what makes us sad
To live when others die
To lose and say goodbye
To last until our moment comes