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Video: Dad, daughter in tears about bullying on bus

  1. Closed captioning of: Dad, daughter in tears about bullying on bus

    >>> but let's begin with that florida father who lashed out at his daughter's alleged bullies on a school bus . we'll talk to the family in a moment. but first how their story unfolded.

    >> reporter: on a school bus in suburban orlando, a father's fury caught on a security camera .

    >> my daughter has to get on this [ bleep ] bus.

    >> james jones , a 43-year-old private first class in the army was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and disturbing a school function.

    >> tell me which one. tell me which one.

    >> jones admitted his temper got the best of his when he unleashed a tirade on some boys he claims were bullying his 12-year-old daughter who has cerebral palsy . a father's temper used to protect the daughter he loves.

    >> i was very much -- out of character for me. but my daughter, i still love her and i support her.

    >> jones alleges boys on the bus smacked his daughter on the back of the head, twisted her ear and shouted ruds comments. school officials say he never complained to them that his daughter was being harassed. the national center for education statistics say 25% of all students are bullied. but among kids with disabilities say 85% are targeted.

    >> whether it's getting mad or getting scared or getting angry, they're providing a response that makes the person bullying feel in power and in control.

    >> james says he's not going to let his daughter become a target. we are joined exclusively now by shatari jones and james jones . james you have said, look, i apologize, i stepped over a line on that bus, i shouldn't have done what i did. when you see the tape, though, and it takes you back to that moment, what goes through your mind?

    >> a lot of hurt and stuff go through my mind, but that's my daughter and at that time i was going to do that, no matter what?

    >> did you weigh out the risk-reward? did you say okay i may stop the bullying "toda ining today if i jump on that bus, but i may actually cause s shatari problems down the road? did you think about that?

    >> no, when i got into that situation, my daughter finally tells me what's going on on this bus, i'm thinking i'm going to talk to the bus driver , that's my initial attempt. i'm seeing this bus coming 20 minutes late, people are just yelling and arguing and hanging out the window.

    >> this was chaos on the bus. you could see there was a problem with control on the bus as soon as the bus pulled up?

    >> no control. and i'm like how i am going to put my daughter standing here crying on the bus.

    >> it was the day before that you told your mom for the first time that you didn't want to go on the bus. did you see a change in attitude?

    >> she was disinterested in everything because shatari likes to dabble in cooking and she didn't want to do those things, and she didn't want to go to school and we were just in the erm part of school.

    >> if this had been happening, did you stop and think about should i tell my parents? will i be seen as a tattle teal? how long did you worry about this.

    >> a week before it started.

    >> and what made you finally decide it was right to tell your mom?

    >> because if i don't tell her now, it will happen.

    >> because it was getting worse.

    >> were you afraid it was just going to get worse and worse?

    >> yes.

    >> what kinds of things were they doing on the bus.

    >> they would call me names. we would all as parents love to wrap our children in a big bubble and protect them from everything. but we can't do it. and at some point you have to see. i love my daughter, i love my kids. i love my family. we're going to stop this bully we're just drying to help other kids, because other kid will see my kid suffering and they don't even know the pain we're going through. this has turned my whole world upside down.

    >> after this happened, it wasn't over on that bus, you got back to the house and then the news crews showed up and the police showed up. and shatari, i know you were very upset about all of this, and actually you decided to hospitalize?

    >> i was at work and my wife notified me that shatari had seen the tapes and she told her mom she needed to go somewhere and my wife notified me and we put her in the hospital under stress and now she's out and we're hopeful and stuff again.

    >> shatari, you haven't been back to school. do you hope to go back soon? do you want to go back? is it more difficult now?

    >> i don't want to go back.

    >> would you get on that bus again? do you think it would be different?

    >> yeah. but i would like to get on the bus again.

    >> natalee, how here's are the charges that james is facing?

    >> james is facing second-degree misdemeanor charges, that's the lowest charge we have in florida. he could spend some jail time and for a family that is living paycheck to paycheck, this will devastate the family.

    >> i think i want to talk to deborah and joiames, the good news is that she eventually told you. there are other situations with bullying and unfortunately we have covered far too many of them on the show where a child says nothing and suffers in silence and then we read a terrible headline.

    >> but there's another thing about this, some kids out there that are going to school, can't tell their parents at all, their parents are single parents , me and my wife love each other that we were sticking by her. there's some parent who is don't even see their kids from the time they go to work until the time they come home and the kids don't even get a chance to tell them. there's where we need to step up and say, this is my kid and i'm going to find out what's going on. even if they're on up there in age.

    >> you can't wrap your children in bubbles, but how do you protect her from now on?

    >> i'm going to ask any questions, you know, get involved, you know, and we can sit down and have dinner and stuff like that, definitely.

    >> james and shatari and deborah

    >>

By
TODAY contributor
updated 10/4/2010 9:57:43 AM ET 2010-10-04T13:57:43

James Willie Jones and his wife Deborah became worried when they saw their daughter Chatari shutting down emotionally just days into her sixth-grade year at Greenwood Lakes Middle School in Florida.

It wasn’t until Jones waited for the school bus with his daughter on Sept. 3 that she finally came clean about her troubles — other students on her bus were making her life a living hell. They twisted her ears, smacked the back of her head and relentlessly taunted her with verbal abuse, some of it sexually explicit.

What followed turned not only a school district upside down, but put a new nationwide focus on the subject of school bullying: Dad James entered the bus that day and tore into his daughter’s alleged tormentors with a series of expletive-laden threats that eventually led to his arrest.

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Out of control
Appearing with Deborah and Chatari on TODAY Monday, Jones told Matt Lauer it wasn’t his initial intent to go ballistic on the alleged bullies, but when the vehicle pulled up to the curb, he witnessed a bus gone wild.

“I’m thinking, I’m going to talk to the bus driver; that was my initial intent,” Jones said. “[But] I’m seeing the bus coming 20 minutes late, people just yelling and arguing and hanging out of the windows. It was chaos — no control. And I was like, ‘How am I supposed to put my daughter, standing here crying, on this bus?’ ”

Chatari’s lingering pain was evident on national TV. While she tried to keep a smile on her face during the interview, she broke down sobbing when Lauer asked if she could detail some of what she had to put up with on the bus. “They would poke me with pens, call me all kinds of names, spit in my hair, and condoms were being thrown on the bus,” the 12-year-old said.

Image: James Willie Jones, Natalie Jackson, Deborah McFadden-Jones
Reinhold Matay  /  AP
James Willie Jones, center, and his wife Deborah McFadden-Jones, right, along with their attorney, Natalie Jackson talk to reporters.

She told Lauer she had tried to suffer in silence, but finally confided in her dad because, “If I don’t tell now, what would happen?” Trouble was, the situation exploded after Jones’ tirade was caught on the bus surveillance tape.

TODAY Moms: Father's protectiveness goes over the line

News media aired the tape, reporters started visiting their house, and six days after the incident, police showed up as well. They arrested Jones on two misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and disturbing a school function. If convicted on both, he could face up to four months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Jones has publicly apologized for his outburst, saying, “I made a mistake and I’m trying to pay for that.” But at the same time, he’s become a bit of a folk hero for being a dad who wasn’t going to put up with bullies abusing his daughter.

Video: Dad confronts daughter’s bullies on school bus (on this page)
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‘Just an average dad’
Jones told Lauer of Chatari’s challenges. Her older sister was a popular cheerleader and athlete at the middle school, but then went on to another school and was no longer around to protect Chatari on the school bus. What’s more, Chatari suffers from cerebral palsy.

Choking back tears, Jones said: “Nobody knows what me and my wife went through with her, the days in the hospital with her.

Video: Dad, daughter in tears about bullying on bus (on this page)

“We kept her back out of school for one year, to not go through this, and we’re still stuck with this,” he added. “I’m just an average dad protecting his daughter. That’s it. They don’t even know the pain we are going through. It turned my whole world upside down.”

It turned Chatari’s world upside down as well. She saw the tape of Jones’ confrontation with the alleged bullies, and became racked with guilt that she had gotten her father into trouble. Her mother Deborah said in the days after the incident, she saw Chatari “getting to the point of no return.” She was eventually hospitalized for a week with stress.

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Chatari has not been back to school since the day of the bus incident. School district officials, who have said James was wrong for not coming to them before taking the matter into his own hands, have arranged home-schooling. But Chatari told Lauer she still plans to return.

“I do want to go back,” she said. When Lauer asked whether she believes the situation would be different now, she replied quietly, “No. But I would like to get on the bus again.”

Appearing with the family on TODAY, attorney Natalie Jackson told Lauer she’s discussing a plea deal with prosecutors, but her biggest concern is her client’s being imprisoned.

“The problem with cases like these is that he could spend some jail time, and for a family that is living paycheck to paycheck, jail time can devastate the family,” she said.


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