Attorney: Janssen's comments about bus stop tragedy 'repulsive'
Superintendent Julie Janssen’s response to the death of 17-year-old Nora Hernandez-Huapilla at a school bus stop Friday was “repulsive” and “inexcusable,” says the attorney who represented the family of another Pinellas student who was killed at a bus stop.
“What I found especially repulsive was that in this time of mourning that anybody in connection with the (district) would have the audacity to blame the parents,” Tampa attorney Steve Yerrid, who represented the family of 16-year-old Rebecca McKinney, told the Gradebook this afternoon.
Asked at a Friday press conference what she would tell parents who said the district’s bus system was an accident waiting to happen, Janssen said: "You know those are decisions that parents make when they choose to allow their children to go to a school that's not their zoned school. The information was given at the beginning that we would provide arterial transportation, and it was a requirement for the parents to get the children to those stops. And it's a choice that a family makes to have a child stay at a school that's different than the assigned school."
Said Yerrid: “That was a clear inference, if not a direct assertion, that we didn’t do anything wrong, it’s the parents’ responsibility. No. 1, I doubt it’s true. No. 2, it’s the worst timing that could possibly be.”
He said there’s “almost a shocking similarity” between Nora’s case and that of McKinney, a junior at Clearwater High School who was killed in 2004 after her bus dropped her off on the east side of six-lane McMullen-Booth Road. The School Board approved a $1.1 million settlement in that case last year.
Yerrid said the McKinney family is “heartbroken” in the aftermath of Nora’s death. He said they wanted to convey that “our concern should be directed to what can be done to prevent these tragedies, not finger pointing at the parents.”