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Hillsborough school employees' memo about bus issues gets attorneys' attention

Published Feb. 15, 2014

TAMPA — Attorneys for the family of the late Isabella Herrera read with interest a memo that says Hillsborough County's school bus system for special-needs student is unsafe.

For more than a year they've been trying to prove in federal court that Isabella's death in 2012 was caused by systemic safety issues that amount to discrimination.

The 7-year old, who had a neuromuscular disorder, stopped breathing while on a school bus going home from Sessums Elementary School in Riverview. Employees on the bus did not call 911, and the family alleges her wheelchair was positioned improperly.

While the school district announced improvements in training and safety protocols, four trainers in the transportation department say problems remain. They put their concerns in a memo that School Board member April Griffin circulated at Tuesday's meeting. Among them: Employees are sometimes told not to document problems that threaten children's safety.

On Friday, attorneys in the Herrera case asked for the right to re-open discovery.

"The very issues that are raised in this memorandum go to the heart of the claims" made in the case, they wrote.

Griffin said that although she is not eager to cost the district money in legal fees, "I want these issues resolved, and whatever it takes, that's what it takes."

The district is investigating the issues raised in the memo, deputy superintendent Jeff Eakins said earlier this week.


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