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Hillsborough district defends itself against second Herrera lawsuit

As expected, the Hillsborough County school district has again asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the parents of the late Isabella Herrera.

The case of Isabella, a disabled 7-year-old who died after suffering respiratory distress on a school bus, does not belong in federal court, the district argues in a motion filed this week.

After the first lawsuit was dismissed, Judge James Moody gave lawyers for the Herrera family a chance to re-file. Seeking to establish a pattern of misconduct that would qualify as deliberate indifference to the rights of special-education students, they listed a series of incidents dating back to 1999. They also noted the district's last director of exceptional student education lacked state certification in ESE.

The district, in its response, argues that the Herreras do not have standing in these other matters, have not backed up their claims and have not proven indifference. "There are no allegations as to how the ESE program, which the plaintiffs expressly allege provides services for at least 29,000 students, is ineffective," the motion states.

With the exception of Isabella's case, "the plaintiffs cite no instance in which what they categorize as a meaningful investigation was not conducted."

As in prior motions, the district also argues that the Herreras cannot sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act concerning an alleged violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The original suit was filed Nov. 1. Since then, the district has named a new General Director of ESE and a task force has begun to implement new training protocols for employees on the bus and in the schools.