Madison - St. Clair Record

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Suit alleges autistic elementary school student abandoned for hours on school bus


By John Breslin | Aug 23, 2019


EDWARDSVILLE- An autistic elementary school student allegedly spent nearly three hours abandoned after employees of a bus company failed to notice he was buckled in a seat in the back of the vehicle. 

Thomas Miller, suing on behalf of his minor child, filed a 60-page complaint alleging intentional affliction of emotional distress, negligence, and false imprisonment against defendants Granite City Community Unit School District 9, Bonnie Johnston, Mary Ann Ramsey, Illinois Central School and North American Central School. 

The suit states that at the start of the 2018 school year, the defendants failed to sweep the bus for any remaining children, leaving the child - who has extreme separation anxiety - in his seat as all other students exited and bus was brought back to base and parked. 

Jim Greenwald, superintendent of the school district, said he was "very aware of the situation" but could not comment further.

The district's attorney, Tom Schooley, said that litigation is ongoing so he could not comment. He added that the district's insurance carrier is responsible for appointing counsel in the case.

According to the complaint, the child boarded the bus on Aug. 8 and was escorted to the back, where he was buckled in by the monitor. The bus arrived at Maryville Elementary at 8:16 a.m., where he was supposed to exit. 

Miller alleges several students stopped off the bus, but his son did not. He claims no attempt was made to ensure that all the students had gotten off the bus. The driver was later contacted on the radio by school officials and asked about the child, but allegedly said the child was not on the bus. 

The bus driver allegedly continued on to Prather School, where the rest of the students exited the bus when it arrived at about 8:28 a.m. The bus then finished at the depot, where the driver allegedly parked the vehicle and left. The suit states she placed a placard on the bus stating that it had been checked for children still present and there was no one there. 

Then at 10:55 a.m., the student's mother received a recorded call stating that her son was not at school. In a panic, she immediately called the school and said she saw her son boarding the bus. She also began calling friends, family and Prather.

She received a call from the school at 11:24 a.m. saying her son had been located. He had been found behind the parking lot sitting on a railway tie, the suit states.

The plaintiff, through his father, alleges that some time during the two hours and 40 minutes he was "abandoned and imprisoned" in the bus, he managed to escape, possibly through the rear door. He was "alone and terrified," the suit states.

According to the complaint, he did not return to the school for 10 weeks because he was unable to board his bus due to mental distress.

The plaintiff is represented by William K. Holland of Holland Injury Law.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 19-L-1127

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