Hillsborough County schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia is talking about what happened on a district bus when a child with muscular dystrophy stopped breathing and eventually died in 2012, now that the district has settled its lawsuit with the family.
In a column written for the Tampa Bay Times, Elia notes the school district has 85 to 100 medical emergencies requiring an ambulance every most months. She said the investigation found no criminal conduct, but that the school district has learned from Isabella Herrera’s death:
Despite testimony from several medical experts, there is no conclusive opinion as to whether different decisions on the bus would have yielded a different outcome. Regardless, our school district has worked to improve the reliability of our bus radio system and bolstered training for drivers, emphasizing that bus drivers can and should use their personal cellphones to call 911 when warranted. We have reached out for input from parents and professionals to see how we could improve services for special needs children — and have made multiple changes based on that input.
At the April 1 School Board meeting, at which the $800,000 settlement was finalized, Isabella’s mother made an impassioned plea to board members and to the school district to keep her daughter in mind when we make decisions regarding the most vulnerable among our students. I know that board members have taken those words to heart — and I certainly have.