Family seeks more than $10 million after alleging child let off bus more than mile from home

Published 10:37 pm Monday, June 13, 2022

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The family of a Suffolk Public Schools kindergarten student has filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Circuit Court seeking more than $10.3 million in damages, alleging “reckless disregard and gross indifference” due to a bus driver forcing the child off the bus to walk more than a mile home in winter weather.

The attorney for the family, Drew Page, said he filed the civil suit Friday, which seeks $10 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages, along with pre- and post-judgment interest and court costs.

Specifically, the suit was filed against Vernice McMillan and Beverly Young, two employees of SPS at the time of the alleged incident, as well as the Suffolk School Board, which the suit says “oversee(s) and implement(s) policies and employment for Suffolk Public Schools…”

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The school division did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The suit alleges that the child rode the bus home from school Jan. 3 as temperatures in the city were around freezing and there was snow on the ground. At about 4:55 p.m., the bus driver allegedly stopped the bus and told the child this was their stop. The 6-year-old, according to the suit, said it was not, but after the driver, McMillan, asked other students if this was the child’s stop and didn’t get a satisfactory answer, the driver told the child that “you are just going to have to figure it out and walk home.”

The child was terrified and alone, according to the suit, and a stranger in the neighborhood helped guide the child home before the child’s grandfather showed up. The grandfather and child’s mother had, according to the suit, been notified that the child had been dropped off at home.

The suit describes a meeting held with the mother, grandfather and bus driver, along with Young, the division’s transportation director, in which Young told them kindergarten students must have an adult at the bus stop in the morning and afternoon. According to division policy, if there is no parent at the bus stop in the afternoon, the driver is to bring the child back to school.

Young, the suit states, said teachers did not provide information to the bus driver, the route sheet was deficient and the driver did not check the child’s book bag tag.

“As a result of the actions of the Defendants, (the child) suffered physical and mental injuries, including being terrified to ride the bus in the future,” the suit alleges, “requiring mother to have to drive the child to and from school; (the child) has experienced damage to her mouth from grinding her teeth as a result of anxiety; (the child) is and will continue to seek therapy for the anxiety caused by the Defendants; (the child) no longer trusts Suffolk Public Schools and wants to move to another area or require the Defendants to pay for private school.”

The suit alleges that the mother “suffers and will continue to suffer mental anguish” and has suffered economically due to having to take her child to school and relocating the family to another location. It also cites the medical and therapy expenses incurred by the mother.

The bus driver’s conduct “was intentional and reckless (and) further, it was and is so extreme, outrageous and intolerable that it offends against all generally accepted standards of decency and morality,” the suit alleges.