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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Hillsborough district says Herrera lawsuit lacks sufficient facts

The federal lawsuit over the 2012 death of special-needs student Isabella Herrera continues, with the Hillsborough County school district arguing again last week that the case does not belong in federal court.

In a brief response to motions by the Herrera family, the district said the suit does not present its allegations with strong enough factual backing to merit a federal discrimination case.

Nor, attorney Tom Gonzalez argued, was anything gained by compiling a list of alleged failures in the district's exceptional student education department. Only two examples on the list -- the 1999 roadside death of middle school student Eric Martin and a 2011 case in which a young child was left unattended on a bus -- were even related to transportation.

Isabella, who had a neuromuscular disorder, died after she was unable to breathe while riding home on a bus from Sessums Elementary School in Riverview. The driver and aide did not call 911, and she was pronounced dead the following day at a hospital.

Lawyers for the Herrera family are trying to prove the district practices deliberate indifference to disabled students. The district says the lawyers have not proven this is the case, and that this really should be a negligence suit. As such, it would be tried in state court and the awards would be limited under sovereign immunity.

[Last modified: Monday, June 3, 2013 4:19pm]


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