Boy Injured by School Bus Will Get His Day in Court
Parents sue school system, judge allows jury trial to proceed
A lawsuit claiming the county school system was negligent when a school bus ran over the legs of a second-grader after he was dropped off at the wrong stop is scheduled to go before a jury later this month.
The parents of the 7-year-old Brookhaven Elementary School student are seeking $100,000 in damages to help pay for their son’s hospital bills, estimated at $50,000, and for pain and suffering.
A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge late last month rejected a school system lawyer’s motion to dismiss the case.
The boy’s mother, Bertha Forgwei, of Silver Spring, said her son became scared after he left the bus at the wrong Aspen Hill stop in October 2015 and began to run after the bus as it pulled away, according to the lawsuit.
As he ran alongside the bus, which was moving at 6 mph, the boy tripped and tires ran over his legs, causing injuries that confined him to a wheelchair for several months and forced his parents to quit their jobs to provide care, the lawsuit claims.
A school district spokesperson declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.
Forgwei’s lawsuit also claims her son was placed on the wrong bus and dropped off at a bus stop nearly five miles from his home on his second day of kindergarten in 2013. The mix-up left him “emotionally scarred,” the lawsuit says.
The bus driver, Le Tu, who is also a defendant, claims he dropped off the boy and waited until all of the students who exited the bus were on the sidewalk before proceeding, according to a deposition filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
“In the approximate second” before the child fell, Tu says he saw a hand in his right-hand rearview mirror and thought it was a passenger sticking a hand out the window, which is against the rules, and he stopped the bus and noticed the boy on the ground, according to the deposition.
Attorneys for Tu and the school board argue students are no longer the school’s responsibility once they leave a bus, and parents must teach younger students about their bus stop locations.
“Parents are responsible for their children on the way to the bus stop, at the bus stop, and on the way home from the bus stop,” according to a letter sent at the start of school to parents and guardians. “… Parents are responsible for children as soon as they got off the bus at the afternoon bus stop and should plan to meet the bus or arrange for a caretaker or other responsible adult to accompany the children safely home or to the child care provider.”
Tu regularly drove buses for the school district and was substituting for another bus driver who was absent the day the boy was injured.
Attorneys also argued in court papers that the boy did not tell the driver he was at the wrong stop and that his parents did not inform the school their child needed extra assistance with bus activities. If a child alerts the bus driver they are not at the correct stop, the driver is supposed to return the student to their home school, according to the letter.
Forgwei’s lawsuit counters that the school district did not have proper protocol for ensuring young students were dropped off at the correct stop and Tu was not properly trained on procedures.
A trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 22.