Special Needs Student Dies on School Bus, Investigation Launched

The family of a 19-year-old special needs student say he was left alone for nine hours on that bus, most likely waiting for instruction from a bus driver or teacher on what to do. But with no one apparently realizing he was missing, he just sat and waited.
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It was one of the hottest days on record in Southern California, where this incident took place. Temperatures reached the triple digits.

He was supposed to arrive at school at around 8:30 a.m., and then return home at 3:30 p.m. But when the severely autistic man never arrived home as scheduled, his mother called the school district to alert them to a problem.

It was only at that point that bus workers returned to that bus and found the man slumped over in the rear aisle, unresponsive. Several bus drivers rushed over to begin resuscitation efforts, and then firefighters stepped in soon after upon arrival. However, the victim was already deceased.

Police held the bus driver for questioning, but have since released him. They are, however, treating the death as “suspicious,” because as far as they can tell, the student did not have a life-threatening medical condition. At this point, it does appear the man died of hyperthermia, but it will be weeks before the results of an autopsy will show for sure the cause of death.

It’s not clear at this point why the student did not get off the bus with the other students or whether the driver was required to conduct head counts of each special needs student before exiting the bus himself.

The school district, meanwhile, has launched its own investigation, which will include a thorough review of policy by the private agency with which it contracts to provide student busing services. The driver was reportedly cooperating with police, but it’s not clear if he had been suspended or any other action taken to by the school against the contractor.

Our Asheville student injury lawyers know that while cases like this don’t necessarily happen every day, there are plenty of instances in which schools fail in their duty to protect those in their charge.

Every year, school districts throughout the country spend millions on settlements and judgments arising from injury to students. These injuries occur not just on buses, but in school yards, classrooms, gymnasiums and under a wide range of circumstances. Sometimes competition or horseplay is involved. In some cases, the underlying cause is a criminal assault. Usually, there are a number of contributing factors, and negligence often is one of them.

When school teachers or other employees act with negligence that results in injury to a student, the district may be held accountable, despite sovereign immunity laws. But of course any time one files action against a government agency, there will be additional challenges. It’s imperative to have an attorney who understands the ins-and-outs of the law.

State laws impose on school districts a duty to carefully supervise students while they are on site during the school day, and failure to do so can result in liability for any injuries that result.

Contact our Carolina personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
19-Year-Old Special-Needs Student Found Dead on School Bus ID’d, Sept. 12, 2015, By Jason Kandel and Beverly White, NBC-4, Los Angeles

More Blog Entries;
North Carolina Bus Fires a Growing Problem? Feb. 26, 2012, Asheville School Accident Lawyer Blog

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