Tag Archives: School Bus Safety

Jury awards $90 million in Prince George’s County wrongful-death case

PGCPS_LOGOjury

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Apr 14, 2013 10:44 PM EDT

The Washington Post Published: April 14

A Prince George’s County Circuit Court jury has awarded $90 million to the family of a 13-year-old girl who died four years ago after she was struck by a car while trying to catch a school bus. The family of Ashley Davis, who was a freshman at Crossland High School, sued the Prince George’s County Board of Education after she succumbed to her injuries two weeks after the Sept. 1, 2009, crash. A six-member jury handed down the wrongful-death verdict — one of the largest in the court’s history — this month. Read more ~~>Jury awards $90 million in Prince George’s County wrongful-death case

Prince George’s County Government leaders  in 2009 school year when this incident happened:

County Executive: Jack B. Johnson 

 Board of Education Chairperson: Verjeana M. Jacobs.

 Superintendent of School /CEO: Dr. William Hite Jr.

These are some of the issues Reform Sasscer Movement has been trying to have the Board of Education (BOE) members see clearly and fix without success. The amount involved here is not the issue.  It will take care of itself. It always does. The real concern is a wonderful, innocent child died, who would have been 17 and a Sr. in High school this year. This family lost a very much loved member of their family; and others lost a very cherished friend. Quite possibly the world lost a future scientist with the cure for cancer, a doctor who perhaps would have saved your grandchild’s life one day!

However, the open discussion this case has triggered is a healthy start to perhaps changing policy to prevent this from ever happing again to our school aged children that must take public transportation to get to school. It’s unfortunate that this had to happen, but the bigger tragedy is it took a jury hitting the PG County school board upside the head with a 2 x 4 before anyone would take notice and even have a discussion on this matter. The corrupt and inept PG County School Board is only costing its residents more money. Surely, the arrogant BOE lawyers could have settled this case a long time ago, but they chose to drag it for their own selfish motives after being rewarded $5million “No bid” contract.

No amount of money…no amount of time passing will make that heartache go away. The only way to get some folks attention and force change is to show them how outlandishly dilapidated they were in their duties. This PGCPS transportation system has been in dire need of an overhaul for a long time. It is very sad but some of the bus drivers are involved in childish political games within the system. When The WaPo printed a story about a 5 year old who was put on the wrong bus, then dropped off in the middle of nowhere and left to fend for herself, there was little outrage. When there is little outrage, there is little inspiration or motivation to make improvements. It’s not about the money as we said before. The jury send a message. Now, perhaps the Prince George’s County District school system needs an overhaul. They now have about $90 million reasons to get motivated to fix what is very much broken.

Many thanks to the eight jurors for their selfless service to the county and its citizens on this case; and for the tough decision they had to make as well. We are sure it was not easy having to sit and listen to a testimony in such a landmark case for the county, or the nation for this matter. Urgent action will be required to address various issues currently affecting children, employees and families at Sasscer (PGCPS HQ). We are sure much progress will be made once the new BOE Chairperson and Superintendent comes on board. (See Highlights of HB1170 signed by Governor O’Malley)

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi”

Board must be held accountable for silence on abuse.

We are sure that when you read the Prince George’s County Board of Education was being sued for failing to take action on complaints from employees who were being bullied and abused by other employees and supervisors,  You were just as shocked as we were. The sad part in this situation is that, this is not anything new in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS). This kind of uncouth behavior happens all the time in many schools and is encouraged by Dr. William Hite Jr and his senior staff which includes legal department Chief Mr. Roger Thomas Esq and HR Chief Ms. Synthia J. Shilling (formerly Assistant to Roger Thomas).

Just recently according to police, Theresa Douglas, a Prince George’s County Public Schools bus driver, had an ongoing disagreement with a co-worker and recently tried to get a protective order against the co-worker, but a judge dismissed the case.  In an effort to seek revenge, she drove the bus into the temporary office where her harassers were. We do not approve what she did. However, there are at least two sides to every story, and you never know the entire story  particulary in cases of bullying, harassment, retaliations and discrimination, you know the things people don’t want to talk about until it is too late. She wasn’t acting like that just because she had a bad hair day.(Read her story here) ( here) (Here) (Video Here) and (Here)

 Our own investigation reveals that PGCPS management and ACE_AFSCME Local 2250 failed to protect Ms. Theresa Douglas against the harassment. “This is what they do if they want to get rid of you” said one employee at the School system’s garage recently. “The unions and Dr. William Hite Jr are in bed with one another which is against the rules of natural justice” said another employee who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation.  If they want to get rid of you, the PGCPS management is employing dirty tactics by using other employees to harass and intimidate someone in order to have them quit.  “This is unacceptable behavior” several drivers, teachers and nurses said recently to the Reform Sasscer movement team during our tour of the facilities recently. Something needs to be done to change things for the better.  Ms. Theresa Douglas the Bus driver had been harassed for an unspecified time without anything being done and she felt so powerless against PGCPS management that she had to resort to a bus as a weapon for action; Something is not right.

There are other cases involving physical fights in recent months including employees involved in altercations recently at Sasscer administrative building. Some are now on administrative leave while others are not.  The Hites administration along with the Board of Education are not doing much to address these situations in a timely manner the way they should. In many cases, they are involved indirectly in starting conflicts involving employees. One issue of concern which seems to be fueling conflict within ACE_AFSCME Local 2250 for example is the hiring of Mr. Fred Shumate (Pictured below) a former senior HR supervisor at PGCPS. Mr. Shumate always seems more interested in undermining employees  to PGCPS management than helping them resolve their grievances or conflicts. This is not how a union is supposed to operate. There seems to be a major disconnect and he is not acting alone. There is definately a conflict of interest because Mr. Shumate hired most of the PGCPS HR staff involved in illegal firing of employees. “He is the ‘eyes and hears’ of the PGCPS management inside ACE_AFSCME Local 2250 to help cover up corruption” said another employee who declined to provide his name for fear of reprisal.  The union needs to do something to address this situation.  There are other examples like this in all four unions including PGCEA.   

In the school bus situation, if the staff, union or management had followed proper school procedure in addressing the problem, we might be in a different place.  This news broke just weeks after it became public after another story involving employees in similar situations. This very same board censured one of its members for investigating complaints he had been receiving from the public after they weren’t getting a response from the administration. More interesting is that, this administration along with some of the other Board members who caused Board Member Edward Burroughs to be censured are not paying attention to civil rights violations. That is right in the span of just weeks; it has become apparent that parents and community leaders in several Districts within PGCPS are begging for help against abuse in various ways involving students and staff.  At High Point High School for example, it took video of a mini-riot breaking out to bring the type of administrative attention needed for the problem. At Goddard it took a million dollar lawsuit to draw attention to a problem involving a student who was being sodomized by another. That is not acceptable to us and we are sure it is not acceptable to the parents and people of Prince George’s County.  This begs the question:  “What is Dr. Hite and his administration doing about this???” and what role will Mr. Christian Rhodes play in stopping this unethical and dangerous practice? Time will tell. There are no questions who are the victim here, children suffer much more in this kind of environment and citizen voters are definitely being duped.