Saturday, May 26, 2018
Education

Federal discrimination suit against Hillsborough schools back on

TAMPA — A federal discrimination lawsuit involving the death of special education student Isabella Herrera can proceed, a judge ruled Tuesday.

The Hillsborough County school district had argued that the lawsuit, filed by Isabella's parents, alleged negligence and belonged in state court instead.

Isabella, 7, died after suffering respiratory distress on a school bus in January 2012. A neuromuscular disorder made it difficult to hold her head up. Her parents allege her wheelchair was not positioned properly. A video shows the driver and bus aide, who were neither investigated nor disciplined, did not call 911.

U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. dismissed the lawsuit in March, but allowed the family to refile it. In the amended suit, the parents recounted a series of errors and injuries in the Hillsborough district's exceptional student education programs that, they contend, amount to discrimination against disabled students.

The Herreras, represented by two law firms, also allege the district knew Isabella had trouble keeping her head up and acknowledged the need for training and positioning in her educational plan, yet failed to provide the necessary accommodations.

Isabella is one of two Hillsborough ESE students to die in 2012. On Oct. 22, Jennifer Caballero, 11, who had Down syndrome, drowned in a pond behind Rodgers Middle School.

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