LARGO — The Pinellas School Board on Tuesday approved a settlement that will award $1.1-million to the mother of a former Fairmount Park Elementary student who ran away from his school in April 2005 and was struck by a car.
E'Traveon Johnson, now 9, suffered injuries to his brain, spine and neck and remains paralyzed. A district investigation concluded that school officials were properly supervising children at the time of the accident, but superintendent Clayton Wilcox recommended the settlement as an alternative to a possible lawsuit that could result in a larger award should a jury find the district negligent.
The district will pay the first $200,000, the maximum allowed under a state law that caps liability for school districts and other public agencies. The district's insurance company will pay the remaining $900,000.
In other business, the board voted 5-2 to approve a policy change allowing students at so-called 4-by-4 high schools to graduate once they have 24 credits. Previously, the district required 4-by-4 students to have 29 credits to graduate.
Six Pinellas high schools operate on a 4-by-4 schedule, in which students take four courses each quarter and earn eight credits a year, giving them more opportunities to take elective courses. In other high schools, students typically take six courses a year and earn six credits toward graduation.
District officials say the change, which does not lower the number of core courses required to graduate or remove other graduation requirements such as passing the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, is more fair.
Previously, they said, 4-by-4 students were being held back from graduation while their peers at regular high schools got diplomas because of the lower credit requirement.
"This will affect the kids who are on track for graduation but who, for whatever reason, did not take an elective or failed an elective," said Harry Brown, deputy superintendent for curriculum and operations. "They now will be able to walk with their class."
The change will affect about 75 students this year. Over time, officials say, it will help improve Pinellas' graduation rate.
Board members Mary Brown and Janet Clark voted against the change.
Clark said the move watered down the district's standards.