Special Needs Student Injured On School Bus

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According to district superintendent, school bus aides did everything they could to prevent a student with special needs from being critically injured when he jumped out of the back of a moving bus.

Jumped Out of Moving Bus

The 11-year-old student from Southwest Academy in Tolleson ran for the rear emergency exit while the bus was in motion. According to authorities, the bus was moving at 15 mph.  Superintendent James Rice of the Union Elementary School District, which includes Southwest Academy, reiterated that workers did everything in their power to prevent the boy from jumping from the back of the bus.  At the time, the student was with the driver and a bus aide.

“We feel that we really had it covered,” said Rice. “He just jumped up and bolted out the back door, and that was before our aide could catch him. And he did jump up to try and get him, but he wasn’t quick enough.”

Head Trauma

According to police, the boy suffered head trauma and was still in critical condition at a hospital.

A head injury is defined as any trauma to the scalp, skull, or brain, it can range from a minor bump on the skull to a serious brain injury.

A head injury can be classified as either closed or penetrating (open). Here are the differences:

  • Closed head injury: indicates a hard blow to the head from an object. The blow does not break the skull.
  • Open/penetrating head injury: indicates an object broke the skull and entered the brain. Examples include: going through a windshield during a high-speed accident or a gunshot to the head.

Head injuries also include:

  • Concussion. This is when the brain is shaken within the skull. This is also the most common form of traumatic brain injury (TBI).
  • Scalp wounds
  • Skull fractures

Head injuries may cause bleeding in the brain tissue as well as the layers that surround the brain.

Head Trauma Statistics

TBI accounts for over 1 in 6 injury-related hospital admissions each year. And many of those that suffer head injuries are children.

A TBI is much different than a broken limb or torn muscle. Because our brains define who we are, the consequences of TBI can affect all aspects of life, including our personality. Brain injuries do not heal in the same way that other injuries do. And no two brain injuries are the same, so it is hard to be able to determine set outcomes. The results of recovery from two similar injuries can be significantly different.

Brain injuries can be especially troubling because the person who has suffered one might not even realize that the injury has occurred. Sometimes symptoms appear right away, and sometimes they do not appear to be present for days or weeks after the injury.

Steps to Keeping Students Safe

Because children can be especially prone to head trauma, it’s important that every measure be taken to keeping them safe. One area of student’s lives that can be difficult to protect is the ride to school via a school bus. School bus safety can be particularly hard to enforce because of the nature of riding on a bus. Often times children go unrestrained, and since the vehicle is larger than an average car, there are greater chances of damage that can occur during an accident.

Superintendent Rice detailed the steps the district had taken to ensure student safety on the bus that picked up special-needs children going to Southwest Academy. Each special-needs bus has an assigned trained aide that monitors and assists students as they ride to and from school. This special-needs bus is a little shorter than most. So, due to the fact that there were only four rows of seats between the second row and the back door, according to Rice, there was not a lot of time to allow for a reaction to when the student ran toward the emergency exit.

Emergency doors on a school bus, or any bus, are specifically designed to be easily operated. Simply pulling the red level opens the door. Meanwhile, the door emits a high-pitched noise to indicate it is open.

“They’re designed for mass emergencies,” said Ryan Stantom, district transportation supervisor. “Say you have a bus break down on train tracks. It’s meant to get them out as fast as possible.”

Stantom went on to explain that students participate in two bus-evacuation drills each school year.  During these evacuations, the district teaches students that the front door is generally the best emergency exit.

Funding Cuts

Rice and Stanton stand by the aide who was on the bus as the time. His name is Anthony. “He’s the perfect one to be working with children on this bus: we call him the gentle giant. He’s cool, calm and collected,” Rice said. “I don’t know if he’s ever spoken a loud word.”

Despite the fact that the district has faced over $1.8 million in cuts in funding since 2009, aides were kept on to ensure that students remained safe. They also absorbed other roles to ensure they would remain on staff. Anthony has been with the district for " a long time." He also works as a courier for the district, due to the fact that aides are given so few hours to work.

School Bus Accident Statistics

  • In 2008, 466 school bus accidents were reported in Arizona.
  • 3 people were killed and 100 people were injured.
  • Nationally, an average of 142 people is killed each year in school bus accidents.
  • Of these people: 19 are school-aged children.

School Bus Safety

Parents across the nation rely on school buses to get their children to and from school safely. Bus accidents are one of the more common threats that school children face daily. School bus accidents can be caused by any number of things, including poorly trained or inexperienced bus operators, distracted driving, poorly maintained buses, overcrowding, road defects, and other at-fault drivers that share the road with school buses.

But it’s not just the driving aspect that poses a threat to children. Almost three-quarters of children who are injured or killed by school buses are injured or killed while boarding or de-boarding the bus. Children can also be injured or killed in a pedestrian accident while waiting for a bus. This can happen at poorly visible or poorly placed bus stops, or also while crossing a street that does not have a school crossing guard or a marked safety zone.

Drivers and Parents - How To Keep Yourself Safe

There are ways to ensure yours and your children’s safety when it comes to school buses. Children should be taught “on-board” safety as well as safety when walking around a school bus. Drivers also need to take part in keeping children safe.


  • Watch for children that are walking or bicycling to or from school.
  • Pay particular attention when exiting a driveway or garage.
  • Pay particular attention to school zones.
  • Children are often unaware or not paying attention, so it often falls to you to avoid an accident.
  • Slow down and follow posted speed limits.
  • Watch for children crossing or walking in the street. This is especially important in areas where there are no sidewalks or where there are known bus stops.
  • Stay alert. Children can dart into the street without thinking twice.
  • Learn and obey all school bus laws, including bus lights: Yellow lights mean a bus is preparing to stop and load or unload children. You should slow and prepare to stop. Red flashing lights mean a bus has stopped. Children will be loading or unloading. You must stop and wait until the lights stop flashing and the bus begins to move. It is illegal to pass a stopped school bus that has red flashing lights.


  • Try to be at the bus stop at least five minutes before your bus is scheduled to arrive. This way you won’t need to rush to get there.
  • Stand at least 6 feet away from a bus as it arrives at the curb. This means 3 BIG steps.
  • Wait for the driver to allow you to board the bus.
  • If you have to walk in front of a bus, walking at least 10 feet in front of it so that the bus driver can see you clearly.
  • Use the bus handrails to avoid falling or tripping. Secure loose items and be sure backpacks, drawstrings, clothing and other items do not get caught on the handrails or doors of the bus.
  • Never walk behind a bus.
  • Never walk beside a bus.
  • Remain at least 6 feet away from a bus at all times unless you are boarding.
  • Never attempt to retrieve an item dropped near or under a bus. If you must, first tell the driver so that they are aware of what you are doing.

Parents, it’s important that you talk to your children about bus safety. You should also ensure they understand the rules for riding on a bus, as well as the safety tips for being near and around school buses.

Ongoing Investigation

Though the investigation is still on-going, Rice stands by the steps his district took. Still, he will accept any recommendations the police make.

“You should never take anything for granted when you’re dealing with kids,” Rice said. “You always have to be alert as to what kids are doing and what kids might do.”

Hire a Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured during a bus ride or involved in a bus accident, you should hire a personal injury attorney. This can be a critical step in protecting your rights. A personal injury attorney will thoroughly investigate the causes of the accident, determine who is responsible, and conduct a comprehensive review of your family member’s medical needs.

A personal injury attorney will examine the extent of your family member’s injuries, in addition to the possible long–term medical consequences. This is crucial when you are working to ensure your child’s or family member’s welfare and their future financial well–being.

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