Death of special needs student brings lawsuit against Hillsborough Schools

By Dalia Dangerfield, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, November 01, 2012

A Bay area family has filed a federal lawsuit against the Hillsborough County School District in the death of their 7-year-old special needs daughter.

Isabella Herrera died in January of 2012 at a Bay area hospital. Her death came a day after she was found choking and unconscious aboard a Hillsborough County school bus.

According to the lawsuit, the bus driver and bus aide failed to give Herrera the help she needed before and after she started choking on the school bus.

Herrera's lawyer showed video taken from the bus ride in January.

The family attorney said it shows Herrera was not properly restrained to keep her head from moving while aboard the bus.

The second grader suffered from muscular dystrophy. She was bound to a wheel chair and had problems keeping her head up.

The lawsuit alleged the school bus drivers and bus aides are not adequately trained to deal with the transportation needs of special need students.

Herrera's lawyers also claim the school district violated the student's civil rights by going against the Americans With Disabilities Act and failing to provide adequate special needs transportation for Herrera.

Herrera's mom, Lisa, is angry because she said when she arrived no one had called 911 or given CPR. She said her daughter had already been unconscious for some time.

"I think it's appalling that I was the first person to be called instead of  911," Lisa Herrera said. "I couldn't do anything. It took 14 minutes for an ambulance to get there. She went 30 to 40 minutes without oxygen."

Hillsborough County School Spokesperson Steve Hegarty said the bus driver resigned shortly after the incident. Hagerty wouldn't comment on the allegations.

"Because it's pending litigation, I hope you understand I'm not going to be able to comment on the specifics or the lawsuit," said Hillsborough County Schools spokesman Steve Hegarty.

Hegarty also said the school district does offer CPR training to bus drivers and aides.

The lawsuit asks for more than $100,000 in damages from the Hillsborough County School District.