FOX 2 – It has been almost three years since Carl Johnson, a special needs student with autism, died after having a seizure on a bus while waiting for his school.
The Bernstein law firm says the Detroit Public Schools Community District did nothing to prevent a similar tragedy. It still has to come to an agreement with the legal team representing DPSCD and the bus company.
Lawyers publish video from the school bus showing a boy with special needs having a seizure and not receiving medical attention
Bernstein law firm says the Detroit school district did nothing to prevent a similar tragedy. It has yet to reach an agreement with the legal team representing the Detroit Public Schools Community District and the bus company.
“One would assume that they would jump on it and fix the problems,” said attorney Mark Bernstein. “But we saw no evidence that they were making the changes necessary to protect these vulnerable students.”
Bernstein and attorney Joe Ceglarek shared a video of the incident with FOX 2. It happened outside of the Jerry L. White Center in July 2018, the first day of the DPSCD’s annual expanded program for students with special needs.
Carl was not allowed to go in because the bus arrived 10 minutes before class was due to start.
“So now you’ve effectively restrained this kid on a bus, he’s on a hot bus that isn’t very well ventilated,” said Ceglarek. “And then he has the seizure and no one looks for medical help because no one knows how.”
Carl falls over, wedged between the seats, his airways are restricted, and no one sits on him.
The bus driver calls the company’s dispatch department, which initially does not answer before calling the 911 emergency number. Rescue workers would not arrive for 15 minutes.
“There is no plan to resolve an emergency situation,” said Ceglarek. “The plan is: call the nurse. Well, the nurse is at school and has to take a while to get to the bus.”
Bernstein law firm says there should have been a nurse on the bus when Carl was picked up. the county knew he was prone to seizures, but that information wasn’t passed to the Jerry L. White Center until the first day of class – four weeks after Johnson’s regular school year.
“There was no training, no planning, no coordination, and no responsibility for these most vulnerable students,” said Bernstein. “And three years later nothing has changed.”
The law firm Bernstein represents Carl’s family in a lawsuit against DPSCD, Trinity Transportation and five employees.
The company says what happened to Carl could happen to other students too.
“This is a systemic failure. There are other children, probably around 24-25 children a year, from different school systems who then attend the extended year program at the Jerry White Center,” said Ceglarek. “And these nurses, these teachers, it isn’t until the first day of school that they have the information they need to address every child’s needs.”
DPSCD released a statement stating:
“Even though this incident happened nearly three years ago, the district is still feeling the pain caused by the loss of Carl. Since this is an active legal case, there are details that Carl and his family would be careless and insensitive to discussing in the media. “