Grandmother claims district left pre-schooler on bus

Kelly Holleran Nov. 18, 2009, 7:49pm

A Jefferson County woman claims her 4-year-old grandson fears going to school after a bus driver left him stranded on the bus for more than three hours last winter.

Sharon Hill filed a lawsuit on behalf of her grandson, Derrick Zachery Jr., on Nov. 12 in Jefferson County District Court against Beaumont Independent School District.

Hill claims a Beaumont Independent School District bus picked up her grandson from his home on Jan. 13. From there, the bus driver should have dropped Zachery off at Southerland Headstart School.

According to the complaint however, when the bus driver arrived at Southerland School, he overlooked Zachery, who remained on the bus even after the driver returned it to the bus yard.

"The driver left the bus without checking to see if he left any children on the bus," the suit states. "Plaintiff was left unattended and alone, still buckled in, on the bus for some three and a half hours."

The plaintiff also claims no one at Southerland School called Hill to inform her of her grandson's absence, the complaint says.

Because of the incident, Zachery suffered severe physical and mental pain, suffering and anguish and physical impairment, Hill claims.

In addition, he suffers from nightmares, does not want to attend school and does not want to be separated from his grandmother, according to the complaint.

Hill blames BISD because its driver failed to ensure that all children were off the bus, failed to properly account for all children on the bus, failed to inspect the school bus after all children had exited it, failed to adequately maintain cameras on the bus, failed to comply with standards and failed to properly provide safety for passengers.

In addition, the district negligently failed to properly train drivers and aides, failed to contact Hill when Zachery did not show up for school and failed to have adequate procedures in place to ensure that no student remained on the bus, according to the complaint.

Hill seeks compensatory and exemplary damages, plus pre- and post-judgment interest, costs and other relief to which she may be entitled.

Brian D. Sutton, Joseph N. Jannise Jr. and Stephanie H. Harris of Sutton and Jacobs in Beaumont will be representing her.

The case has been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: A185-324.

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