MIAMI - The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office has charged a 15-year-old boy with criminal battery after he was reportedly caught on cell phone video repeatedly punching a 9-year-old girl inside a Homestead school bus.
Two Miami-Dade School Board members also spoke out about the incident on Wednesday, saying such violence must "never be tolerated."
In a written statement, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said the beating was "far more serious than a simple student altercation."
Rundle's statement said the school police officer chose to issue a civil citation instead of making a misdemeanor battery arrest.
"We believe that, based on the evidence and the circumstances, the use of a civil citation was incompatible with the level of violence displayed by the 15-year-old against his much younger and smaller victim," Rundle said in the statement.
"The District supports and respects the role of the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office in ultimately reviewing and determining the most appropriate charge for each respective case," Miami-Dade County Public Schools said in a statement.
Miami-Dade School Board member Luisa Santos, who represents the area where the incident happened, told CBS4's Peter D'Oench, "Anytime we see violence related to students and school staff it is unacceptable behavior that we don't tolerate. We can talk about our children and the way we can invest in them knowing how to handle these situations. They should know that it is never acceptable to act out violently."
"As for our bus drivers, they go through professional development as do our bus aides as well. In our bus driver and bus aide handbook, we have very clear instructions that safety is number one. There will be a thorough investigation and we hope to expedite that and provide closure so this can never happen again."
School Board member, Dr. Steve Gallon III said, "This is an unfortunate incident. It is our obligation to ensure the safety of our students so I was deeply troubled by the visuals I saw, I think it is an isolated case and I think our bus drivers are deeply committed. They are some of the hardest-working employees in the district and we have been very vigilant in bus driver preparation. They are thoroughly trained but it is a very difficult job while they are transporting tens of thousands of students. The bus driver has to watch what's going on and there are protocols and procedures. This is something that we continually look at as well as the Superintendent does to see if there are any areas of improvement."
Gallon said, "I think expanding our training with our staff if the first option. We need to make sure these incidents don't happen. We also want students to work through their conflicts appropriately. Violence has no place on a school bus or in a school or in a classroom>"
The cell phone video captured the moment the girl was beaten by several older boys while riding on a bus from Coconut Palm K-8 Academy in Homestead.
"Emotionally, I couldn't even last two minutes. I couldn't look at the video. Like any mother, I am destroyed. I fell to my knees and at that moment I said I have to do something," said Jenni, who is the mother of the young girl who was attacked.
Jenni said her daughter was attacked while riding on the school bus Wednesday afternoon. Her 10-year-old son was also pummeled on the same bus ride.
"Another kid came out of nowhere and hit my son and he fell to his knees, and they started to hit him," said Jenni.
Jenni said her kids have only been enrolled in the school for three weeks. She reached out to CBS4 Wednesday to report bullying at the school, only for these incidents involving her children to happen hours later. But Jenni isn't the only parent claiming there are serious issues at Coconut Palm K-8 Academy.
"My son was bullied at that school, since the beginning of the school year," said a mother who wished to remain anonymous.
This mother said her son, who's in the third grade, was repeatedly physically bullied by his peers. She said she reached out to the school several times, messaging teachers and administrators, only to be ignored or not answered for weeks.
"There was an incident during P.E. and she said that what happens in P.E. stays in P.E. and that to me was just bewildering," she said.
Things got so bad for this student, that his mother says she did the only thing she could do to protect him.
"I had to pull my kid out of the school, cause that school doesn't care about their children,"she said.
The mother of the two children who were attacked on the bus said physically her kids are okay but they're traumatized by what happened.
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