BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A Bentonville family is suing the school district and multiple other people after a five-year-old boy was left on a school bus for several hours last month.
Michael and Michella Carpenter filed the suit in the Circuit Court of Benton County on October 24, with their son also mentioned by name. Named defendants included the school district, superintendent Debbie Jones, school board president Eric White, school board vice president Kelly Carlson, transportation director Jason Salmons, route system specialist Jodi Cunningham, an unnamed administrative employee and several school board members.
On September 19, the Carpenter’s kindergarten student son boarded his bus at approximately 6:15 a.m. “as was the typical morning routine,” according to court documents. Almost five hours later, his parents received a call telling them that he “somehow had not unloaded from the bus and could be found at the transportation yard.”
The suit notes that he would have arrived at school at approximately 7 a.m. on a typical day. The boy’s mother states that she “was confronted at the doors of the transportation facility by School Superintendent Debbie Jones and Chief Operating Officer Tanya Sharp who wanted to speak to her before she entered the building.”
She continues by stating that she rushed past the school administrators and found her son being attended to in a restroom by a school nurse. The suit notes that “his face was still flushed and his skin blotchy and red from the heat of the bus, still, 1/2 hour following his rescue.”
The filing states that no attempt was made to contact 911 despite suggestions to do so by the nurse and the district’s Director of Nursing.
“In the 4-hour period he sat abandoned on the school bus, he alternately called out for his mom and dad and his dog, sweated profusely, cried intermittently, and eventually, there being no facilities on the bus, urinated on himself where he remained in his assigned seat.”
Michael and Michella Carpenter vs. Bentonville Public School District et al, October 24
The boy’s mother took him to an emergency room, where a “preliminary physical examination by hospital staff resulted in a disclosure of abnormal indications for dehydration in his blood work and bubbles appearing in his urine which had an unusual dark color and strong odor,” according to court documents.
“Psychologically, after the incident of being left unattended on the bus, [he] has exhibited, and continues to exhibit, distrust for adults other than his parents, refuses to ride the bus to school, has had to be transported to school by his parents each day since and has had
difficulty sleeping,” the filing added.
It continues by noting that negligence is defined under Arkansas state law as “the failure to do something that a reasonably careful person would do under circumstances with a foreseeable risk.” The suit specifically alleges negligence by the school bus driver for violating school board policy that states that “each bus driver shall walk inside the bus from the front to the back to make sure that all students have gotten off the bus after each trip.”
The suit also alleges negligence by “an unknown administrative staffer” that never notified school administration or the child’s teacher of the boy’s absence from school. The district’s transportation director is also cited as negligent for failing to ensure the safety of students being loaded and unloaded from the school bus.
The school superintendent is named in the fourth count of negligence for the “result of those cumulative events” and “a wholly foreseeable consequence” that occurred. The filing also noted that in February, a school bus driver was recognized with an award for contacting 911 for a “student in distress.”
The school board is also included in count four, with the suit noting that there was not an electric child safety alarm system on that bus, something it states is “ultimately the responsibility of the School Board, the violation of which duty resulted in [the victim’s] injuries.” The filing notes that such an appropriate electronic device costs approximately $100.
The lawsuit seeks damages “for the physical injuries and pain, suffering and mental anguish he suffered from the negligent acts of the Defendants’ failure to exercise the ordinary care that a reasonably careful person would do under similar circumstances under a foreseeable risk of harm to a child in their care, and for putting him, as a result of their actions or inactions, in a dangerous place he would not otherwise have been.”
The filing also requests punitive damages “if any actions are determined to be intentional,” as well as costs and attorney’s fees.