A 15-year-old boy has been charged with manslaughter and carrying a concealed firearm after shooting and killing Lourdes (Gina) Guzman-De Jesus, 13, on board the school bus Tuesday morning.
Police took Jordyn Alexander Howe, who turned 15 on Nov. 3, into custody and recovered the .40-caliber gun on scene at 1554 N.E. 37th Avenue and SW 296th Street in Homestead after responding to reports of shots fired inside a private school bus at about 6:47 a.m. local time. Charlie Hood, state director of student transportation at the Florida Department of Education, confirmed for School Transportation News that the bus was privately contracted by parents to serve three charter schools. The rear, right-side of the bus stated the following: Somerset Academy, Palm Glades, Coconut Palms, Silver Palms and Sumerville Advanced.
According to local news reports, De Jesus attended Palm Glades Prepatory Academy. Phone messages left at the school were unreturned at this writing.
"What happened yesterday was a terrible tragedy for all," said Jerry Klein, the administrative director for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. "Our district buses do not provide transportation for charter schools. These schools must contract for transportation from one of the approved school bus companies."
He added that the transportation department maintains and disseminates on its website a list of approved private bus companies, which meet the same standards of operation as district buses. Additionally, these types of "for hire" vehicles and drivers, including taxis, shuttles, and non-district buses, are regulated by Passenger Transportation Regulatory Division of the Miami-Dade Consumer Services.
The district also maintains information on how companies can become an approved school bus contractor, which includes providing proof of driver history, background checks, a minimum of 40 hours of driver training, physical fitness, proof of company insurance, and vehicle maintenance.
While there was no known motive for the shooting, the Miami-Dade Police Department added that it was thought to be an accident when Howe removed the gun from his back pack to show other students. One shot was fired, hitting De Jesus. Police added that eight other students, including the victim's 7-year-old sister, and the bus driver were unharmed.
De Jesus was airlifted to Miami Children's Hospital, where she died.
Police added that the school bus was not equipped with on-board video surveillance equipment. An investigation continues.
Mike Dorn, a safety and security contributor to STN and executive director of Safe Havens International, said "accidents" like the one that apparently occurred in this instance can be complicated because it's unclear especially with the limited information that has been made public about what more the private bus carrier, the driver or the school could have done. For example, guns concealed in a book bag can make it difficult for a driver to identify, unless there are previous, documented incidents.
But, Dorn added that training students on gun safety can be given at the district level in an attempt to avoid such incidents.