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

Driver took middle school, high school students to her house

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - A Polk County school bus driver has been arrested after deputies say she drove a busload of middle and high school students to her house and staged a fight between two students in her front yard.

Patrice Sanders, 29, has been charged with child abuse, child neglect, false imprisonment and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

According to the affidavit, Sanders picked up kids from three Bartow schools -- Gause Academy, Summerlin Academy, and Bartow High School -- as part of her normal duties.

Deputies said Sanders heard a 13-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl arguing on the bus. She told them, "This is going to be handled today and they just need to fight," according to deputies.

Sanders then drove the school bus directly to her home located on Enterprise Drive in Lakeland, bypassing any and all stops deputies said she was supposed to make to let the kids off the bus.

Sanders ordered all of the children to get off the bus and told the two teenaged girls, identified by deputies as a 13-year-old Hispanic girl and 16-year-old black girl, that she would give them Vaseline or baby oil to put on their faces so their faces wouldn't get scratched during the fight, said deputies.

The 13-year-old told Sanders that she did not want to fight. Deputies said Sanders went inside her house to try to find Vaseline or baby oil and couldn't find any.

The girls then physically fought in Sanders' front yard, as witnessed by Sanders and all of the other children who had gotten off of the bus. Deputies said at least one child videotaped the fight on a cell phone.

Sanders did not try to stop the fight, but stood by and watched. Deputies said the girls fought until they decided to quit. Afterward, Sanders ordered all of the kids back onto the bus.

"Come on, girl. What are you thinking," Sheriff Grady Judd asked at a news conference on Friday. "How could you promote and encourage children to fight?"

Once the bus was back in motion, deputies said the same two girls began physically fighting again. Sanders pulled the bus over and watched them fight until they were done.

When they were done, deputies said Sanders told all of the kids on the bus, "What happens on the bus, stays on the bus," and then proceeded to take them all to their bus stops.

That evening, the 13-year-old girl's mother reported the incident to the Polk County Sheriff's Office and took her daughter to the hospital to be checked out. Deputies said she did not have any serious injuries.

Detectives interviewed both the 13-year-old and the 16-year-old that evening, and then arrested Sanders. Deputies said additional charges are pending further interviews with the other children, who were on the bus.

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