Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough school board candidate blasts district over special-education tragedies

TAMPA — Terry Kemple waited until the night before the election to unload on the Hillsborough County school district for its treatment of special-needs students.

But his statement, when he released it, did not hold back.

"As a father, my heart and my prayers go out to the families of Bella Herrera and Jennifer Caballero, the special needs students who have died in tragic accidents that have taken place in the Hillsborough County School District this year," wrote Kemple, who is running for the countywide District 7 School Board seat against longtime incumbent Carol Kurdell.

"Parents and children in Hillsborough County deserve better! A culture of active accountability will help prevent tragedies like this in the future."

Bella died in January, after suffering respiratory distress on a school bus leaving Sessums Elementary School. A Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office report shows that neither the driver nor the aide called 911. Instead, they tried to notify their supervisors and a dispatch operator of the crisis, in accordance with what the district described as its protocol. District officials, when asked last week for a written report about the incident, said they were not aware of any.

Bella's family is suing the district in federal court.

Jennifer drowned last month in a retention pond behind Rodgers Middle School after walking away from a physical education class. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is investigating, and after that the district will conduct its own inquiry.

Kurdell, hearing about Kemple's statement, said, "How do I respond? I am always disappointed when an opportunist uses the deaths of children to advance someone's candidacy. I don't care who you are. It is inappropriate."

In recent days several board members have said they want to take a closer look at the exceptional student education department, which serves 29,000 students and has undergone other troubling incidents this year as well.

Count her among those members, Kurdell said.

"Always, when you have a tragedy, you have to look at everything that happened," she said, "Look at the facts, and see if changes have to occur. We might have to change things to keep children safe, that's the bottom line."

Board workshops are scheduled Thursday morning and afternoon to discuss lacrosse, Head Start and other issues. While special education is not listed on any agenda, members are likely to ask questions about staff training, the practice of not calling 911, and other related topics.

Hillsborough school board candidate blasts district over special-education tragedies 11/06/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 11:18am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  2. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Those wide-open, end-to-end, shoot-at-will games are a lot of fun to watch, especially when those shots are going in the net. But if the players had their druthers, they would rather have a more controlled pace, one with which they can dictate the action.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  3. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy

    World

    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  4. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)

    Nation

    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102
  5. Chemical industry insider now shapes EPA policy

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — For years, the Environmental Protection Agency has struggled to prevent an ingredient once used in stain-resistant carpets and nonstick pans from contaminating drinking water.

    This is the Dow chemical plant near Freeport, Texas. Before the 2016 election, Dow had been in talks with the EPA to phase out the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is blamed for disabilities in children. Dow is no longer willing to compromise.