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November 30, 2012  |   Comments (3)   |   Post a comment

District reviews special-needs safety following students’ deaths


TAMPA, Fla. — Following the deaths of two special-needs students, a work group at Hillsborough County Public Schools was asked to review safety issues that impact these students, Tampa Bay Times reports.

Isabella "Bella" Herrera died in January, a day after suffering respiratory distress on a school bus. Herrera had a neuromuscular disorder and had trouble holding her head up. She started choking, and neither the aide nor the driver called 911, according to the newspaper. Rather, they tried to have a dispatch operator or transportation supervisor call 911. Herrera’s parents are suing in federal court.

In October, 11-year-old Jennifer Caballero, who had Down syndrome, drowned in a pond behind one of the district’s middle schools after walking away from a physical education class.

In the wake of these incidents, Superintendent MaryEllen Elia asked for the work group’s findings, and said that if there are district policies or procedures that need to be updated, changed or clarified, it will be done. She told the newspaper that the district’s school bus drivers are “free to decide whether to call 911 in case of an emergency,” and officials said that drivers have never been prohibited from doing so.

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What's wrong with the bus driver and aide in this story? Dang whistleblowers, to reveal to the press a hidden policy to “first call dispatch” are despicable and disloyal acts. Because of these blabbermouths, officials are now facing a horrific federal lawsuit, and 'blame the bus driver' is about the only distraction remaining. After several years of following hidden policies I ignored most hidden policies, and went with written or clarified in written directives. Got me in to plenty of trouble. We are all supposed to follow directives, even the unsafe ones. Surprised that under some management styles I made it to retirement with the same employer. To go against a management directive, hidden or not, is a risky affair that carries considerable responsibility if found in the wrong. Glad the last few administrations were more in tune with supporting their bus drivers helping keep kids safe.

jkraemer    |    Dec 04, 2012 04:45 PM

It's true that the driver/aide could have called 911 directly - but did anyone ask if they ahd cell phones with them on the bus? Some bus companies do not allow cell phones on their buses. Perhaps they don't own one? Perhaps the only way they had to contact anyone was through dispatch. Let's hear all the facts before placing blame.

Dave    |    Dec 03, 2012 12:58 PM

All too often it takes a child's injury or death for school officials to wake up and think; "oh, yeah, we transport students as well as educate them." It looks like they are trying to shift the blame onto the bus driver when clear policies were not in place. For one, I would take whatever consequences arose for me calling 911 myself in case of such an emergency. THEN notify dispatch of the problem. Sometimes they are so swamped with other calls they don't hear me radio in.

Michele Kuhne    |    Dec 02, 2012 11:02 AM

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