A special-education student's tumble from a school bus on Interstate 80 could have been avoided if employees on board had followed Granite School District policies, the district has concluded following an investigation.
On June 20, a Granite bus was shuttling six students home from the first day of a summer program at Hartvigsen School, a special needs school in South Salt Lake. A 15-year-old boy aboard the bus opened the emergency door and jumped out as the bus headed east on I-80 near 2000 East. It appears he was confused by the route and was trying to get home, according to Granite spokesman Ben Horsley.
The special needs student, who will be a sophomore at Skyline High this fall, suffered multiple lacerations, including one to the head, but did not break any bones or sustain internal injuries. He was briefly hospitalized but is doing "very well" and has returned to summer school, Horsley said.
"It can't be said enough how miraculous not only his condition was at the time of the accident, but also his recovery has been," Horsley said.
The bus driver and a special ed aide on board were in charge of monitoring the students.
"It appears the two employees were negligent in their responsibilities," Horsley said. "Both employees chose to retire as opposed to facing disciplinary action by the district."
Between 60 and 90 seconds passed between the time the boy jumped off and the bus driver pulled over. Initially, both employees did not hear an alarm that was triggered when the door opened. A motorist behind the bus witnessed the boy's fall and pulled over to call 911.
By policy, bus drivers are required to look in their rear view mirrors every 8 seconds to check on students, Horsley said. And aides are supposed to sit where they can easily assist and monitor every student on the bus. Usually, special ed students are spaced throughout the bus to avoid physical interaction between them, and an aide sits in the middle. But on this bus, the aide was sitting at the front.
"The location of the aide on the bus was highly inappropriate," Horsley said. "A number of policies were violated. It does appear, if they had been followed, this incident could have been avoided completely."
Drivers and aides receive training annually, Horsley said. In August, both drivers and aides will be discussing this incident and how it could have been avoided as part of their workshops. The district is in discussions with the boy's family about whether, with the family's permission, the district could show a security-camera film of the incident at future employee training sessions. The district would blur the faces of the employees and students on the bus, Horsley said.
"The circumstances surrounding the video are so dramatic, the impact of the video cannot be overstated," Horsley said. "It could prove to be a valuable tool."
But the video currently is protected from public view because it has been classified as a student record.