Girl dies on school bus. Is driver responsible?

[deleted account] ( 41 moms have responded )

I found this interesting because I am a part time school bus driver while Im finishing up school...

Debate: In a case like this, would it ever be appropriate to hold the bus driver legally / criminally responsible for the girl's death?

Bus driver's actions at issue in girl's death
Protocol ensures riders seated

BY LORI HIGGINS
FREE PRESS EDUCATION WRITER

As Detroit police continue to investigate the death of a student killed after sticking her head out of a school bus window, a key question will be whether the driver violated rules by not checking to ensure that all children were seated before moving the bus.
Bob Riley, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, said it's protocol to do so. "All drivers are trained to have kids completely seated at all times, which would prohibit heads or arms out the window," he said.

Tiffany DiCicco-Ross had stuck her head out of the window of a school bus when the bus backed up and her head slammed into a tree.

A crisis team is to return to Phoenix Multicultural Academy in Detroit next week to help students and staff deal with grief surrounding the accident.

Meanwhile, Mayor Dave Bing said Friday that the city will review a two-week old request from parents at the school that the city look into signage and speeding around the school.

Bing's comments came after the president of the local school community organization at Phoenix demanded in a news release late Thursday that the city be held accountable for the accident because of ongoing traffic problems at the school.

City Council President Charles Pugh said he met with 10 parents from the school three weeks ago to discuss having more stop signs around the school.

"It's just breaks your heart," Pugh said. "I understand their frustration, I really do. ... Unfortunately, a stop sign cannot be put up that quickly."

About 30 social workers, psychologists and counselors were at Phoenix on Friday, meeting with more than 300 students and staff, schools spokesman Steve Wasko said. Community agencies have also offered assistance.

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

Jessie - posted on 06/18/2010

333

36

7

What a sad story, and my sympathy goes out toe the family. I don't really know if anyone was at fault. There should be preventative measures taken to make sure this doesn't happen again, the bus monitors sound like a great idea, also paretns need to talk to their children about staying seated if they ride the bus. Schools should prob. discuss it as well, but I think parents would have a bigger impact.

Jaime - posted on 06/15/2010

4,427

24

196

That's a good point Kristy...when someone runs a home daycare they can't take on more than 6 kids (at least that's the law here in Ontario) and if there are more than 6 then another adult needs to be present. So it makes perfect sense that a bus load of 20 more more kids needs to be monitored. It might not be the driver's fault...but certainly the system in place at the moment has failed to protect the children and it has to change.

Kristy - posted on 06/15/2010

54

0

4

Okay, I have been schooled...lol. I didn't mean to hit a nerve Meghan, and those are all great points. Those are also all reasons I would never let my children ride a school bus. I did as a kid, and I remember the absolute madness that ensued. We were definelty too much for the one school bus driver to handle at times. So that being said, and now knowing why seat belts are such a bad idea on school buses, I will have to agee with Jaime that monitors on a bus to help would be a good idea. I know I have a Brownie troop, and if you have more than eight girls in a troop then you have to have another adult present -- eight that's all. So it would seem that 30 kids on a moving vehicle would require more than just the one school bus driver. This is not the first incident I have heard about on a school bus -- although this is one of the saddest -- where kids on a bus have overwhelmed the driver. Don't get me wrong I have been on buses recently with my own children, and it is not a job I could handle. I am just saying, there has to be a solution.

Meghan - posted on 06/14/2010

3,169

33

202

ohhh ok, I did read the post wrong! This does suggested that the bus was leaving the parking lot...*head hung in shame* I stick to my original comment that it IS hard to keep an eye on But, I also stand by the fact that a five year old should know not to stick their head out a window! This really is a tough one now that I understand what is going on LOL

This conversation has been closed to further comments

41 Comments

View replies by

Katherine - posted on 02/01/2012

440

0

33

I dont feel its the drivers fault, the driver can not be staring in the rear view mirror the whole time driving and getting after the kids. They do have to operate the bus with their eyes on the road and they can not catch everything that goes on all the time. THe girl knew better. I am so sorry for the students, bus driver,and her family.

Tah - posted on 06/18/2010

7,412

22

357

this is very sad and i am sorry for the family but it is hard to drive a bus and control children at the same time, they have bus rules and their are children who break them, i don't think she should be held responsible and i am sure she is suffering a great deal and feeling guilty enough as it is...

Christina - posted on 06/17/2010

196

17

41

Wow, this is a lot of reading. Ok, after having read all the posts, so far anyway, I have a few thoughts of my own.
First, I don't think the bus driver or the girl can be held 100% accountable. The girl was talking to a friend, that's fine. But with her head hanging out the window? I know those windows are small, and to get your head in or out of one quickly is almost impossible. They are so narrow and I can't count the number of times I pinched an ear or scraped my jaw trying to get my head back inside the bus. Granted, I didn't do that while the bus was moving, but it's not easy to make such a quick adjustment.
Yes, the driver should have triple-checked that all ten kids' heads were inside before he got the bus moving. But, as a few have pointed out, why was there a tree so close to where the buses were traveling? With ten kids, it shouldn't be hard to double check things, but how many of you have looked in a bus mirror? Unless they've changed since I was in school, those things don't exactly make it easy to see the back of the bus. Aside from that, school buses are how long? Exactly.
As for seatbelts, that is the first thing that crossed my mind. I mean, tour buses have them, as do all other passenger vehicles. So why not school buses? Then I thought, how many people are willing to risk their lives to make sure everyone is unbuckled and out of the bus before they get off? Not very many. And that's just my thought.
Also, if there are kids on school property and moving vehicles, I'm sure there were adults outside. They could have told the girl to get her head back inside the bus, too. It's not just the driver who is responsible for the kids' safety, it's everybody.
As one woman said, the system failed. When there are so many distractions and such a large vehicle, there really does need to be more than one person in charge of it all.
I know when I was in school, there were always kids getting up and down and switching seats and yelling and hollering and some were throwing things. It was hard enough for our driver, who was really nice, to keep the peace. I'm honestly surprised he was able to remain calm. I only had a ten minute bus ride, and in front of our house was a large driveway thae he would pull into. I'd see him almost every day look in his mirror at all the chaos and holler, quite loudly, for everyone to sit down and keep quiet. Sometimes he'd be sitting there for ten minutes, and it wasn't just waiting on traffic to pass.
Bus monitors would be a big help. Especially since some people who are hired as bus driversjust don't have the patience, or the nerves, to deal with everything going on on the up to two hour ride after school.I was on a bus one time that had monitors and it was so much more peaceful. Even I had less of a headache when I got home.
But, yes, the system failed. It failed the driver. It failed the little girl. It failed her family. The safety of the kids is supposed to be the number one priority, but I can't count the number of times I've heard that school buses are getting more and more packed, that there needs to be more routes added, and more buses and more drivers. Some buses are so packed that a monitor wouldn't be able to fit on one. This accident wasn't the case, but it is in several other areas. This incident should make schools and parents rethink how things operate when it comes to loading and unloading kids. Hopefully things will change and something like this won't happen again.

Jaime - posted on 06/17/2010

4,427

24

196

I agree Wanda...but it's at least one more measure in place to prevent tragic accidents from happening and like I've already said, I don't know if they have school bus monitors in Detroit, but here in Ontario we do and they work really well. No accidents have been reported to my knowledge. There is also a no-tolerance policy for kids that disobey the rules...three strikes and you're walking to school kiddo! That's all I'm saying. I agree that accidents still happen no matter what measures are in place, but I guess my point was, IF there are no bus monitors currently then perhaps that should be implemented as one more notch on the safety belt. I think we are both in agreement that it wasn't the driver's fault...but the girl was 11 and kids do some dumb things sometimes. If the school board and bus board do all they can to protect the kids, then that's all we can ask for.

[deleted account]

Jaime-Leigh, I 'm not saying bus monitors aren't a good idea - they are. I'm just saying that it could have happened anyway. There's only so many monitors per bus, while those monitors are busy with other things some kid could be doing what they're not supposed to. Accidents will continue to happen in life no matter what safety measures are put in place.

Donna - posted on 06/16/2010

3

21

1

Hi I read the artical I think the school should take some of the blame. Why is a tree or branches that close to the buss's what if it was to go threw a window . I think that its a sad situation but to blame the driver is not right if you think about it I am sure he is blaming himself enough.

Krista - posted on 06/16/2010

10

22

1

Um, I know, even though I am no longer riding a school bus, that the bus driver told you every year, and often times more often, that no heads or arms out the window. So unless this bus driver, which I highly doubt, never explained that rule, why should she be held accountable? So my vote is no. At some point the kids have to have some responsibility in their actions as well. For all we know, the girl could have stuck her head out while the bus driver had already told everyone to sit down and started backing up. Sad, but we are taught better and we need to start acting like it. Not keep blaming other people for our own actions.

Jaime - posted on 06/16/2010

4,427

24

196

Not likely Wanda...I have yet to hear of any problems with the bus monitors here in Ontario. I'm not saying it can't happen, but it definitely decreases the chances and it's a smart idea. It's also not a matter of specifically holding anyone accountable...but it is a situation that could have been prevented. She wasn't acting out, she was talking to a friend while the bus was parked and then the bus left the parking lot and her head met a tree branch...tragic accident--yes, driver's fault--not likely...does this call for a change in bus safety--absolutely! If there are no bus monitors why not implement them? What possible disadvantage could that bring?

[deleted account]

Why does someone need to be held accountable? The girl was doing something she shouldn't have been and unfortunately paid the ulitmate price for it. We'll never know if the driver was checking his mirrors on not. It was a sad,sad accident.

I rode a school bus every school day of my life from primary (kindergarten) to grade 12. I lived in a rural area and kids were bused in from all over, some had a hour ride to and from school. Not once was a child killed or even seriuosly hurt. Yeah, we acted out and it was mayhem most days but it was pounded into our heads from an early age to keep body parts inside vehicles. Not even the most disruptive students did something as silly as sticking an arm, leg or head out a window.

I would be devastated if it was my child. Yes, I'd be hurt and pissed off. Unfortunately, a one-to-one ratio that would be required to make sure every student in a school or on a bus was behaving properly at all times is totally unrealistic. This accident could have happened even if there were monitors on the bus.

Jaime - posted on 06/16/2010

4,427

24

196

The system failed. The safety system that is currently in place failed both the driver and this little girl. As someone already mentioned having a bus full of kids and only one driver can be a very trying and impossible task to ensure that every child is seated and obeying the bus rules. Now in this particular case there were only 10 students on the bus....but if it wasn't the driver's fault then who is held accountable? The parents because their daughter should have known better? Sure, she's 11 and she should understand the dangers of having her head hanging out of the bus window...but clearly she was immersed in conversation and likely not thinking that her head would smash into a tree branch and kill her as the bus was pulling out of the parking lot. Most of us would likely not have thought that for ourselves. My point is that BUS MONITORS need to be put in place! It's really that simple. If there had been a bus monitor, with the specific task of ensuring all children were seated before the bus moved, then this situation would have been avoided. It's not difficult at all to obtain bus monitors. There are plenty of high school students that need volunteer hours before they graduate (at least they do here in Canada) and they often get done school before the smaller kids so it wouldn't be a far stretch for them to be able to patrol the buses in the morning and afternoon. If that wouldn't be feasible, then community volunteers can be put in place...we have crossing guard volunteers so why not have them on the bus too?

We can talk all we want about how it's not the driver's fault and the girl should have known better....but I very much doubt if that was any one of your children, you would be so quick to place all of the fault on your child. The school is responsible for the safety of our children when we are not present. The system has failed this little girl. Yes, she did a dumb thing by hanging her head out of the window to talk to a friend...but she was 11 and she can't be held completely accountable for her actions when we know full well that kids do impulsive things without thinking about the consequences.

Heather - posted on 06/16/2010

525

20

18

i dont think the driver is at fault at all. I feel for the girls brother and sister who were on the bus and witnessed it...how traumatic.
Why couldnt school buses be like any other public transit bus? They have windows but they dont open...maybe school buses should have a/c and ventilation systems and non opening windows since that seems to be the biggest safety problem? I know it would be costly, but worth it if it prevented another accident like this one.

April - posted on 06/15/2010

3,420

16

263

I agree about school bus monitors! i am sure we will never get all the facts...what bus driver wants to admit that he wasn't paying attention? that he didn't check to see if all the kids were seated? when you put it that way...it does seem like he wasn't paying attention. in that case...he's at fault.

Jaime - posted on 06/15/2010

4,427

24

196

April, according to the article the bus was parked and waiting to leave the school parking lot when she was talking to her friend out the window. When the bus pulled away her head hit a tree branch...it's entirely possible that the driver wasn't paying attention. And it's entirely possible that we don't have all the facts either. So I stand by my opinion that school bus monitors need to be put in place to prevent these accidents. It would make a world of difference.

April - posted on 06/15/2010

3,420

16

263

i am on the fence about this. why would you talk to a friend while the bus is moving? it's awfully hard to hold a conversation when you're moving away from the people you're talking to.

and the other thing is...i think people should check their mirrors before they start moving the vehicle, not just while they're actually moving. When they're moving, it should be all about double checking.

So...i think that if the driver only checked his mirrors once...he's at fault. if he checked and checked again, he's not.

and i was also thinking...was there a way to avoid the tree? why was a tree branch in the way in the first place?

on the other side of the fence...an 11 year old knows better.

Jaime - posted on 06/15/2010

4,427

24

196

Nicole, in the article I read she had her head out the window talking to a friend...I don't think she jumped up just seconds before the bus left the school and stuck her head out the window.

[deleted account]

Okay, but if the driver was backing up and was checking the mirrors on one side and at last glance everyone was seated and the moment (and I know it can happen this fast, I remember seeing kids do it all the time on the bus when I was in school) he chose to back up she popped up and stuck her head out the window how is that his fault?

That being said why not change the design of the school bus windows so children can't fit their body parts (specifically heads) through them. It would be awesome if we could screen them, but unfortunately due to vandals that would be a costly expense.

Maybe we should start making kids wear seat belts on school buses at least it would make it one step harder to just pop up and stick one's head out the window.

[deleted account]

It wasn't a nerve don't worry lol...I just want people to know that although there may be some Pro's to having seat belts on a bus the number of Con's greatly outnumbers them.

Jaime - posted on 06/15/2010

4,427

24

196

http://detnews.com/article/20100520/METR...



According to an article I just read regarding this accident, the girl was leaning out of the window talking with a friend as the bus pulled away...so I do have to question the driver on that one. It is the driver's responsibility to make sure the kids are seated before he/she pulls away after a stop or pulls out of the school parking lot. And according to this article there were only 10 kids on that bus....it wasn't full and it would not have been difficult to spot her with her head out of the window. I'm not suggesting that the driver should be criminally charged, but I do think that this situation could have been avoided.



I absolutely understand that an 11-year-old should know full well the dangers of sticking their head out of a window..but kids do stupid things and in all the damn spanking debates I am always hearing the "wait until your kid gets older and you will understand why we spank"...so that suggests to me that even though a child is aware that danger exists, it doesn't prevent them from doing dangerous things. This is a tragic accident but considering the fact that the bus was pulling out of the parking lot, the driver was fully responsible for making sure she was seated before he moved.



Here in Ontario I am so glad for the bus rules that we have in place. And when I say that bus monitors work, they seriously work. Also, a child is given three chances and then they are suspended from the bus until the school allows them back on. As well, kids that misbehave are brought to the front of the bus to sit. A driver absolutely has the right to stop the bus until the kids are seated, and he/she also has the right to contact the school and inform them of the goings on if the bus is delayed due to inappropriate behaviour. I think the system needs to change...and I seriously think that volunteer bus monitors need to be put in place. Even if it's parents volunteering, or college students, or kids in the older grades....that will make a world of difference.



I agree that when a driver is on the road it's not easy to spot kids misbehaving...thus all the more reason to have a bus monitor and strict bus rules that result in suspension if a child refuses to cooperate. It has worked in Ontario for years, and I am all the more confident about putting my son on the school bus in the future, knowing that there are safety rules in place at all times.

[deleted account]

The question about seat belts on a bus.

I don't know exact answers but this was always my understanding from my bus riding days; seat belts on a bus can actually be dangerous. There are a lot of kids on some buses (bigger school buses hold 72) so if there's an accident, that's a lot of kids to make sure get off the bus. Trying to get kids, especially the smaller ones, out of a belt and to safety can be very time consuming and if the responsibility is left solely to the driver, then that's eating up more time. Example: there's been a crash and now the bus is on fire. Time is a huge factor, now add in 72 kids, some as young as 4, trying to get out of seat belts and getting to a safety exit. What if one of the belts is stuck and won't come undone. Without the belts it's actually quicker to get out of the bus.

I know where I grew up there were a lot of twisty roads next to bodies of water. If the bus had ever gone off the road and we had landed in one of those bodies of water our chances of getting out alive would have been greatly reduced by seat belts.

As was already mentioned, the high seats act as a buffer and it has to be a pretty bad crash before someone will get thrown over the top of one.

And how would they inforce a seat belt law on a bus? The driver has to drive so what's to stop a kid from taking theirs off? I don't know about the rest of you but we used to give one of our bus drivers a really hard time. Taking our seat belts off to piss her off is something that would have been done on a daily basis.

[deleted account]

@Kristy



I hate it when ppl think school buses need seat belts...who is going to be there to help me unbuckle 72 screaming kids when the bus is on fire or in a high water situation...kids have a much better chance at escaping when there are no seat belts involved...plus bus seat are designed differently than a regular car seat for this specific reason...here is my list of reasons why school busses need not be equipped with seat belts...



- School buses have an excellent safety record. Therefore seat belts are not a necessary expenditure.



- Seat belts are not effective in most school bus crashes.



- Though the cost per child to install seat belts in school buses is low, multiply that by thousands of buses and the cost is astronomical.



- Seat belts prevent students from exiting the bus quickly if fire or water is involved. A bus driver cannot help all students escape if they are belted and the bus is sinking in a lake or other body of water.



- The installation of seat belts doesn't mean they will be used. Drivers cannot be expected to police proper use of seat belts. This would mean helping young students adjust belts each time they got on the bus.



- Seat belts may be a hindrance in catastrophic events such as earthquakes or flash floods.



- Seat belts could be used as weapons if a dispute occurs between students.



- Students who fail to use installed seat belts could cause serious injury to students nearby should a crash occur. They would slam into belted students who would absorb a double impact.



- There are no federal standards to outline proper installation of seat belts in school buses.



- Because a school bus weighs tons and is large, collision impact is absorbed by the mass and the crash force is far less than that felt in an automobile.



- Students on school buses are protected because they are above the impact zone if a crash occurs.



- School buses travel at the speed limit or less. Since speed is a factor in a large percentage of accidents, bus fatalities occur less often than automobile fatalities.

[deleted account]

I don't think it's the drivers fault. The kids are made aware of the rules. What was he supposed to do? Tell her to sit down. What if she didn't listen? Threaten to stay parked until she did. Then all the parents would be pissed/panicky because the bus was late. 11 yrs old is old enough to know to keep body parts inside a moving vehicle or one you know will be moving soon. I feel for the family but it's not the drivers fault.

Jaime - posted on 06/15/2010

4,427

24

196

There are so many people willing to volunteer their time (specifically elder people that are still able to get around) and perhaps that's a solution to the problem. If a bus monitor was able to walk up and down the aisles of the bus, ensuring that the students were seated properly and that all limbs were inside the bus, it would cut down on so many safety issues that are currently in question among school boards and parents.

The info I've found about seat belts on buses, is that they don't offer any more protection to the students if there is a crash. One answer to my question about seat belts suggested that the compartmentalization of the seats and the high-backs will protect better than a seat belt on impact. This information is not from a reliable source however, so it might be interesting if someone can get a hold of their MP or someone from the ministry of transportation to get a more reliable and detailed understanding of why buses don't have seat belts.

Kristy - posted on 06/15/2010

54

0

4

Seat belts -- why is it that seatbelts are required on every vehicle on the road, and you will get a ticket if not wearing a seatbelt. However, on a school bus seatbelts are not required and even present. I vehicle that hauls children for a living does not have seatbelts. I don't get it. I understand that she could have still unlatched it and put her head out the window, but I think seatbelts would help give the driver more control over keeping children on the bus seated. NO the driver is not at fault, and YES she should have known better. At 11 though children think they are invinsible. I truly feel for a life taken so young, and her family's emotional pain. I couldn't even imagine.

Suzette - posted on 06/14/2010

1,086

29

0

I really feel sorry for the girls family, but at 11 yrs old she damn well knew better. I'm not saying that she deserved what she got, by any means as I don't believe anyone deserves that. At that age she should've known better.

However, since the bus driver has a responsibility, even over kids who want to act stupid and run on the bus, it would depend on if the bus was already moving or not. If the bus was already moving then I don't believe the driver could be held responsible for "not checking" for everyone in their seats. If it wasn't moving yet, then I could see the driver being held responsible, at least partially.

[deleted account]

Yes...as a bus driver I make sure to tell all the kids to sit down and remember the safety rules but I have other things to concentrate on, like not hitting the kids outside of the bus! By 11 this girl knew the rules and reminder or not she knows not to put her head outside of a moving vehicle ever.

Sherri - posted on 06/14/2010

9,593

15

387

Nope driver is not responsible in US we have around 60+ kids on a bus. The bus can hold up to 72. There is no way you can positively know what each kid is doing and sorry but at 11 yrs old she most certainly knew better. I feel for the students who witnessed it, her family and the poor bus driver who has to racked with horrible guilt. Even though it isn't her fault.

Rosie - posted on 06/14/2010

8,657

30

315

i see no way that teh driver is responsible. how is it his fault that this girl didn't obey the rules?

[deleted account]

Was her head out the window before the bus started moving? Or did she stick it out after the bus was already in motion? If it's the first one then I could see how the driver could be held partially responsible. Not in the second scenario though... Sad. Poor girl. :(

Jaime - posted on 06/14/2010

4,427

24

196

In Ontario we have bus monitors...kids in the highest grade will patrol the bus and be sure that the kids remain in their seats...they also assist kids when they exit the bus and cross the road. We've had that program in place for a long time. I do think it's the driver's responsibility to be sure that the kids are seated and all of their limbs are inside the bus...but if he was focused on the road then he would have missed her hanging out the window. If the driver did see the girl however, then he did absolutely have a responsibility to stop the bus and get her back inside. And he could have brought her to the front to keep a better eye on her. It's unfortunate that this happened and clearly safety standards need to be increased and awareness of serious injuries/death needs to be realized by the parents, staff and students.

Meghan - posted on 06/14/2010

3,169

33

202

so let's say he did notice (by chance) that the girl had her head out of the window...what was he supposed to do?? Really??? Pull the bus over? Yell at her to sit down? I rode the school bus my whole life and like I said, with 30 screaming kids and focusing on the road, I don't know how it is even HUMANLY possible to safely keep and eye on EVERYONE..and I am assuming that this didn't happen as he was pulling out of the lot

Brandy - posted on 06/14/2010

1,353

0

157

This is just very sad. I feel for her and her family and all of the kids who had to witness this. I would like to know how old she was too. Regardless of her age, I do think that the bus driver should have checked and if he had seen her with her head out the window, should not have moved the bus until she was seated. I know you're not going to like that comment Meghan but isn't it part of the bus driver's job to ensure the safety of the children as much as they possibly can? I know our bus driver never moved the bus until everybody was seated, not only in a seat but in our assigned seats that we were given at the beginning of the year. Children can be rambunctious and forgetful and I hate to blame the poor guy but a simple check in the mirror would have saved this girl's life and as it states above, it was part of his training to make sure all students were seated with their arms and heads inside the bus at all times.

Meghan - posted on 06/14/2010

3,169

33

202

How old was the girl? I would assume that even a 5 year old child SHOULD know not to stick their head out the window. Plus busdrivers have 30 kids screaming and jumping around AND they have to drive! Hard job and I really don't feel that he is at fault AT ALL!!!

[deleted account]

I feel for the family who lost their little girl. I really do.



But the driver did not cause the girl to be put in harm's way. The girl did that herself.



To this day I remember being on a school bus every September and hearing the same thing from every bus driver I ever had-- you NEVER stick anything out of a window on a moving bus! We heard all the urban legends of accidental limb severing and decapitation... and we believed them. I am sure this girl got the same warning and chose not to heed the warning. We have no one to go to for that but her.

Join Circle of Moms

Sign up for Circle of Moms and be a part of this community! Membership is just one click away.

Join Circle of Moms