Are you a parent to a special needs child? If so, have you taken the time to verify that the bus driver that transports your child to school on a daily basis has received the training necessary to ensure your child’s safety? If he or she hasn’t participated in training that specifically addresses how to safely transport children with special needs, a serious or even fatal injury could take place.
A recent trial for wrongful death in Orange County, California Superior Court highlights the need for this training. In 2010, three-year-old Kevin Cisler was killed when a special needs school bus driver with little training failed to properly secure and then monitor Kevin in his wheelchair during the ride home from pre-school. During the ride, Kevin slipped down in his wheelchair seat and was strangled to death by the straps that were meant to hold him upright in the chair.
There have been other incidents where special needs school bus drivers has been found to be negligent. In September of this year, a New Hampshire special needs school bus driver and monitor were terminated after they left a child unattended on a school bus for 25 to 30 minutes when they went home to eat lunch. The boy apparently was sleeping when the driver dropped off the rest of the children at school and the driver and monitor failed to notice he was not among them and still on the bus. Luckily the boy was found before any injury occurred. There have been incidents of bus drivers using tape to restrain or tape shut the mouths of special needs children who they believe are “acting up”.
Kevin Cisler’s death could have been prevented if the school bus driver had been properly training in caring for and monitoring special needs children, especially those in wheelchairs. All bus drivers should be required to undergo rigorous training before they are allowed to transport any children, but this training is especially critical to address the specific challenges faced when transporting a special needs child. Bus drivers need to understand and be trained in how to safely load and unload special needs children from the bus, and how to ensure that the child will remain safely and securely positioned on the bus throughout the trip. If this training does not take place, a serious injury could result during a bus ride.
Ask the school if your child’s bus driver has received training necessary to safely transport your child. During that short trip, your child’s life is in this person’s hands, and that should not be taken for granted.