Polk puts armed deputies on some school buses - FOX 13 News

Polk puts armed deputies on some school buses

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BARTOW (FOX 13) -

Deputies on school buses -- it's happening in Polk County after two students were allegedly caught on video knocking another kid out with a sucker punch.

The district is ordering a deputy on board each bus headed for the Don Woods and Bill Duncan Opportunity Centers, alternative high schools for students deemed at-risk.

But the move comes with a warning from the head of the school board.

"We are going to have order on that bus one way or another,” said Dick Mullenax. “We provide transportation to those schools, but if they can't behave, we will see where we go from there."

The sheriff’s office says the measure is temporary, but necessary.

"With this temporary measure, we can guarantee the safety of those kids," said sheriff's spokesman Scott Wilder.

As the video made the rounds, parents applauded the idea of deputies on board.

"Police officers are even better trained than teachers to respond to incidents," said Russ Pickup, a parent.

The district promises to do a better job of keeping problematic kids off buses. One of the alleged attackers was even supposed to have been banned for a previous fight.

The district said, "We are reevaluating how we track student ridership information, in hopes of preventing such incidents."

"They should be taught the message that police and sheriffs are authority figures they should feel safe around," said Keisha Pickup, a parent.

Indeed, deputies say the chance to build relationships with students is an additional benefit of having deputies on board.

"They're not going to be these hard-core monitors, they're just going to be there, have a chance to interact with those kids, maybe get some information with things that are going on, It's not going to be an adversarial relationship," Wilder said.

Parents we spoke to say they don't mind the change in tone a uniformed police officer creates.

This is the first time Polk deputies will staff school buses.

"Nowadays the kids are beating up the grownups. It's real bad, so yeah," said LeShon Pervall, also a parent.

Deputies stress this is a temporary measure until the end of the school year. The hope is to have a new safety plan in place for fall.

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