Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Education

Family of disabled student files federal lawsuit against Hillsborough schools

TAMPA — Listing the 1999 roadside death of student Eric Martin, the 2012 drowning of Jennifer Caballero and other incidents affecting disabled children, attorneys filed a second federal suit last week on behalf of the late Isabella Herrera.

The attorneys hope to show a pattern of disregard for exceptional student education children in the Hillsborough County Public Schools.

Isabella died in January 2012 after she went approximately 15 minutes without breathing on a school bus from Sessums Elementary School. A neuromuscular disorder made it hard for her to sit up straight. Bus employees did not call 911, but instead followed a protocol that had them notify their supervisor and a dispatch operator.

The Herrera lawsuit in November sought to prove discrimination that resulted in the improper treatment of disabled students. Judge James Moody ruled in March that the suit did not meet the tests of a federal challenge and that the Herreras had not proven the district was deliberately failing to train its employees. It also did not show the district was engaging in a long-standing practice of ignoring complaints from disabled students.

He did give them a chance to refile.

"We don't comment on pending litigation," said Stephen Hegarty, the district's spokesman.

The district plans to submit its response on Wednesday.

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