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Negligence led to special need teen's fall from bus, district says

By Molly Farmer | Posted - Jul. 19, 2011 at 3:52 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — A mentally disabled boy's fall onto a freeway from a moving school bus last month is a "grim reminder" of what happens when policies and procedures aren't followed, Granite School District officials said.

The district recently completed its investigation into the June 20 incident and concluded that the driver and aide on the bus were negligent, said district spokesman Ben Horsley.

The 15-year-old student "appeared to be confused about his ride home," left his seat, opened the emergency exit door in the rear of the bus and tumbled out as the bus was driving on I-80, he said. The driver and aide didn't realize the boy was gone until between 60 and 90 seconds later.

"It was fairly conclusive that numerous district policies and practices which were not followed could have prevented this incident in the first place," Horsley said Tuesday.

The boy was taken to a hospital and was released a few days later. He is now back in summer school at Hartvigsen School, which serves students with special needs, and the district has provided "additional resources" to help him. The boy will attend Skyline High School in the fall.

It was fairly conclusive that numerous district policies and practices which were not followed could have prevented this incident in the first place.

–- Ben Horsley

Horsley said a camera inside the bus recorded video and audio of the incident in its entirety. Multiple policy violations were evident, Horsley said, including the aide sitting in a spot where she couldn't attend to all students.

Horsley said special needs students are spaced out within the bus to avoid "negative personal interactions." Aides are directed to sit somewhere in the middle of the students so they can attend to them quickly.

"If you have students at the back of the bus and you're sitting at the front of the bus, that would be violating the policy," Horsley said.

What's more, drivers are directed to look in their rear view mirror every eight seconds to keep tabs on the students. The tape shows the driver violated that policy, Horsley said.

"Not just those policies were violated but numerous other policies and practices weren't followed," Horsley said.

The family of the injured boy reviewed the tape, as did he bus driver and female aide. The driver and aide both voluntarily retired, Horsley said. Since they are no longer with the district, no disciplinary action will be pursued.

Horsley said the district will be stressing the importance of following policies when aide training begins next month. Aides receive training annually, including transportation training. In the future, the district might look into showing the video to affected employees to emphasize the consequences of not following the policies that are in place.

"It could be a very valuable tool," he said.

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Molly Farmer


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