School bus fight: School discipline experts say driver made right call

School bus fight: Bus driver John Moody, 67, did what he was taught to do when a school bus fight erupted behind him. He called 911 and urged them to hurry. 

AP Photo/Statesman Journal, Lori Cain
School bus fight: A fight on a bus in July has people questioning whether the bus driver did all he could to help the victim. Here, children getting off the bus at Eugene Field Elementary School in Silverton, Ore., in 2007.

When a 13-year-old boy was being brutally beaten on a school bus in Gulfport, Fla., the driver, John Moody, 67, had to make a desperate choice – fight, flight, or phone for help. He chose the final option. 

"You gotta get somebody here quick, quick, quick, quick," Mr. Moody could be heard saying into a phone on a video recording of the fight. "They're about to beat this boy to death over here."

The driver followed the district’s rules by not physically intervening and instead calling for help. Per district rules, he's not required to break up a fight unless he feels it's safe to do so, ABC Action News reported.

Moody retired six days after the July 9 fight in Pinellas County, Fla.

Follow the rules or follow your instinct to defend the victims – those involved in education face this kind of choice daily.

This morning I was on the phone with a friend, Warren Stewart, a former Virginia teacher who once headed his school’s discipline program.

Today, however, he’s at his vacation home in Sunrise, Fla., where he says he’s surrounded by people debating this story.

“This is all anyone here is talking about and having been in that kind of situation many, many times, I’ve been doing a lot of the talking,” Mr. Stewart says. “The driver absolutely did the right thing. He did what he was taught to do. He did what was legally correct to prevent a lawsuit.”

Stewart added, “I personally would not have been able to avoid stepping in physically to stop that fight.”

However, Stewart, who is the same age as Moody, is also a black belt in taekwondo with the moral compass of Captain America.

Stewart is the exception and not the rule.

“That driver did what was right for that situation because without being able to physically handle it he could have made matters far worse for everyone,” Stewart says. “But it makes you think doesn’t it? What if the driver had some martial arts training?”

I know two other Captain America types: Ultimate Fighting Championship founder Rorion Gracie and his son Rener Gracie, both of Torrance, Ca.

Their family started the Gracie BullyProof program to alleviate student fears of bullying in school. I emailed both Gracies this morning for advice on the issue.

“I agree that we can't expect an untrained person to intervene in this situation,” Rorion says. “He (Moody) did what he could. If he had reached for a baseball bat and hit the perpetrators he would have faced criminal charges! Not to mention that 15 year olds can often be stronger than people in their 60's.”

Rener, who teaches families, educators, and law enforcement how to cope with this kind of situation says that for Moody to go into that situation without the proper training “… would be like seeing someone drowning, knowing that you yourself can’t swim and diving into the ocean to save someone in a rip current.”

I was a teacher at a high school for only one year, but I encountered more than my share of fights.

I acted on impulse and instinct to physically intervene when a bully attacked a smaller boy in the hallway. This was irretrievably stupid.

A senior, trained in martial arts, stopped the fight and a student called 911, not me.

The kids all thought I was cool/heroic, but the fact is that I was completely wrong and darn lucky.

I started Gracie BullyProof training shortly after that with my own sons. The first lesson we learned was the mantra, “Avoid the fight at all costs.”

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.