What happened while the bus monitor was on her cell phone…

A middle school boy sexually assaulted a middle school girl on the school bus.  Both students had intellectual disabilities.  The two students had just boarded the bus at the end of school. The driver was not yet on the bus.  The bus monitor was on the bus, but according to the court, she was “on her cellphone in the back of the bus” when the assault occurred in the first row of seats.  When another student got her attention, the monitor quickly intervened.

This was the basis for a lawsuit against the school district alleging disability discrimination, sex discrimination and negligence in the operation of the school bus. The federal district court dismissed all claims.  Let’s take these up one at a time.

The negligence claim was dismissed due to the Texas Tort Claims Act.  Pursuant to that law, school districts are liable for personal injuries only when they are caused by the negligent “use or operation” of a motor vehicle.  Here, as in many prior cases, the court concluded that “The bus was the location of the assault, but the bus operation had nothing to do with the assault or [the girl’s] injuries. 

The claim of disability discrimination failed for a couple of reasons. First, the plaintiffs failed to convince the court that the assault occurred because of the girl’s disability.  Second, the record showed that the district’s response to the incident was not “deliberately indifferent.”   The fact that the bus monitor failed to prevent this may show ineffectiveness, or even negligence.  The school district seemed to think so—it terminated the monitor’s employment. But neither ineffectiveness nor negligence equates with “deliberate indifference.” 

The court dismissed the Title IX sex discrimination claim for reasons similar to its dismissal of the disability claims.  The district was not “deliberately indifferent.”

Thus the entire case was dismissed.  Tomorrow we will tell you how the boy’s grandmother got included in this case, and what the court had to say about that.  If you are a grandparent, you will want to read tomorrow’s Daily Dawg!

This case is Hernandez v. Fort Bend ISD, decided by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on September 13, 2019. We found it at 75 IDELR 34.   


Tomorrow: Let’s protect our grandparents!