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Florida father apologizes for school bus tirade, threats

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Dad who stormed bus apologizes
  • James Jones: "I did it the wrong way"
  • He says his daughter will not be returning to the same school
  • He wants to draw attention to anti-bullying organizations

(CNN) -- A Florida man apologized Tuesday for boarding his daughter's school bus earlier this month and threatening the other children and the driver, saying he acted out of frustration over students bullying his daughter.

"I handled it the wrong way when I went on the bus," James Jones said. He said he does not condone storming on the bus or his profanity-laced tirade in front of students.

"I really strongly believe we should do it a different way," he said. "But at that time, in the heat of the moment, I did it the wrong way."

He urged parents not to follow his example, but to use available resources and talk to the school if their child is being bullied.

Jones was arrested a week after the incident, said attorney Natalie Jackson, who accompanied him at a news conference Tuesday. He is facing two misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and disturbing a school function, according to CNN affiliate WESH.

Video: Man confronts daughters' bullies
  • Bullying
  • Florida

Jones, of Lake Mary, Florida, and his wife claim they had attempted to talk to school officials about the bullying of their daughter. The Seminole County School District, in a statement released last week, denied that the couple had reported the bullying and said his actions were "not acceptable behavior," according to CNN affiliate Central Florida News 13.

The district said one incident Jones alleged had happened on the bus actually involved another student, not his daughter, and that incident was investigated and "appropriate action taken," according to the station. Jones addressed that Tuesday, saying a condom was thrown at another student, but went past his daughter, who found "something wet" on her hair. The girl was told by someone else that a boy had spit in her hair, he said.

But he said the girl also has been called names and pushed around.

Jones said he found his daughter had been avoiding the bullying by skipping school. She would hide in bushes to avoid the school bus and return home while her parents were at work, he said. The girl has cerebral palsy, according to Central Florida News 13.

The girl's mother, Deborah McFadden-Jones, drove her to school in the days before the incident, Jackson said Tuesday, but could not that day, September 3, because she had a funeral to attend. The girl refused to go to school, she said, and her father said he would drive her to the bus stop and talk to those involved.

But before the bus arrived, the girl began crying, and told her father about specific bullying incidents, Jones said. He said he was frustrated because she was so upset, and "snapped."

His intention was, "I was going to be a dad and I was going to at least talk to the bus driver and find out what was going on with my daughter," he said.

He said he had received numerous messages of support from other parents, but wanted to dissuade them from doing something similar. Jackson said Jones held Tuesday's news conference because he wanted to draw attention to national anti-bullying organizations like the National Center for Bully Prevention, and to National Bullying Prevention Month, in October.

"It's not about me. It's about kids that are getting bullied going to school," he said, adding that his actions were "out of character."

He admitted that by launching into the profanity-laced tirade, he was acting as a bully. "I thought I was backed up against the wall as a parent," he said. "We definitely don't want to promote that."

At the time, Jones said the incident had upset his daughter so much that she had to be hospitalized. He said she was still in the hospital Tuesday. She will not be returning to that school, he said, adding he is looking into what to do next.

McFadden-Jones said her daughter was attempting to stand up for other bullying victims when "it turned on her and there was no one to help her. ... She felt alone."

She said she had noticed her daughter keeping to herself more. "She wasn't involved with the family like she normally would be on a regular basis," McFadden-Jones said.

She said when she drove her daughter to school before the incident, she asked to speak with a guidance counselor but was told the counselor was not available. She asked for the counselor's phone number and called from the parking lot "and I let them know I needed to talk to her about my daughter." No one responded, she said.

Jones encouraged parents to talk to their children about the situation at school. "Get involved in your kid's life," he said.