The blows came in rapid succession.
As Mitchell High School sophomore Chase Cristia ducked her head and held out her arms to shield herself, one punch, followed by another and another fell to her head, neck and shoulders.
In less than 10 seconds last Friday afternoon, Chase absorbed about 13 punches from a Mitchell schoolmate during a bus ride home. A third student recorded the attack with a cellphone camera and later posted it on Facebook.
No one stepped in to help.
Pasco County sheriff's deputies Monday arrested the 17-year-old girl they say struck Chase and the 16-year-old girl they say recorded the attack. The two have been suspended from school.
The Pasco County school district is looking into the beating at the rear of the bus. The investigation will include an assessment of how the bus driver handled the situation, said Jennifer Krill, a spokeswoman for the district.
Chase was not seriously injured, despite redness and soreness.
Her mother, Tracy Cristia, on Thursday said she is baffled by the attack.
"What if she would have gotten a hold of her face? I'm quite sure my daughter would have been in surgery that day," Tracy Cristia said. "God forbid, what if she had a weapon? What if she had a knife? It's not a far reach. These kids are doing crazy things."
Six days after she was beaten on the school bus, Chase's return to Mitchell High on Thursday lasted only a few hours.
Instead of attending her third-period history class, Chase called her mother from a school bathroom, crying. She said students were teasing her and told Chase she brought the trouble on herself.
Her mom picked her up and took her home. Chase, 16, was in the bus' back seat, next to the emergency exit door, when she was attacked.
The 17-year-old girl who deputies accuse of hitting Chase repeatedly is charged with battery. The 16-year-old girl who authorities say recorded the beating and posted the video to Facebook is charged with being a principal to battery. Pasco sheriff's officials have not released their identities.
On the video, after the attack on the bus and before walking away, the 17-year-old girl yelled at Chase: "Don't talk s---, b--!"
Both girls were arrested at the school.
The school district is cooperating with Pasco sheriff's deputies as the law enforcement investigation continues, Krill said.
The confrontation was sparked by an incident that took place earlier Feb. 1 during the school's lunch period, Tracy Cristia said. The girls made fun of Chase's friend and she defended him.
"Chase said to them, 'Don't talk about my friends like that,' " Tracy Cristia said. " 'We're in 10th grade; we should be a little more mature than that.' "
One of the girls told Chase she would see her on the bus later, Tracy Cristia said. At some point during the day, Chase went to the school's office and wrote a note, telling administrators what had happened, her mother said. She also spoke with the school's resource officer.
Though Chase had told Assistant Principal Jill Cortier that a girl had threatened her, Cortier did not follow through to intervene. Assistant Superintendent Ray Gadd said Principal Jim Michaels has met with Cortier to discuss how she could have better handled the situation.
The attack took place after classes ended. The bus had left the Mitchell campus and was near the intersection of Little Road and State Road 54.
Chase called her mother after the incident, crying, but did not tell her what had happened. She asked her mom to meet her at the bus stop.
Chase's stop is the first one on the route.
"She was a wreck," Tracy Cristia said. "I stepped up onto the first step of the bus and the bus driver literally screamed at me, 'Get off the bus! Get off the bus.' I remember three times he said that. He said, 'If you have a problem, call the number.' "
A couple of weeks earlier, Tracy Cristia said, Chase had told her about two new girls who lived a couple of blocks away who were mean and picked fights.
Days later, one of the girls stuck out her foot in an attempt to trip Chase as she walked down the aisle to get off the bus.
On Feb. 1, the day of the attack, Chase had called her mother at lunch and asked for a ride home. Tracy didn't know about the threats.
"Imagine the guilt that I feel because I didn't go get her," Tracy Cristia said. "I could have stopped all of it."
Chase has received Facebook messages from the girl charged with beating her. Tracy Cristia showed one that read: "I understand if you don't reply, i don't deserve forgiveness but i ask that someday you will forgive me."
Since the attack, Tracy Chase said, her daughter's sprits have fluctuated. She's happy, then sad, then smiling again.
On Thursday morning she asked her mother to stop at a store on the way to school to pick up balloons and flowers for a friend's birthday.
"To tell you the truth, I'm actually drawing strength from her," Tracy Cristia said. "I try to be really strong in front of her. I don't cry in front of her. Obviously, Friday, we cried together. If she can be this strong -- I'm a grown up -- if I can see her be this strong, I know I can be strong. She's teaching me a lesson. It's amazing. She's a special kid."
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