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Roundup Blog: School District to Settle Wrongful Death Lawsuit for $800K, Stop Arms and More

The Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education this week launched Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive!, an initiative to encourage developmental and behavioral screening for children to support the families and providers who care for them. It’s aimed at helping families look for and celebrate milestones; promote universal screenings; identify delays as early as possible; and improve the support available to help children succeed in school and thrive alongside their peers.

This initiative encourages early childhood experts—including practitioners in early care and education, primary health care, early intervention, child welfare and mental health—to work together with children and their families. This is especially important for when a child’s screening result shows risk. Early screenings will enable families and providers to be in a better position to pursue more in-depth evaluation, which is the first step toward getting help for a child who might need it.

For example, today’s autism data release from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows most children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are diagnosed after age four, even though ASD can be diagnosed as early as age two.

In Missouri, the vast majority of of school districts have been “significantly hurt by Missouri’s inabilty to fund the state’s education funding formula,” concluded the nonpartisan, nonprofit The Missouri Budget Project, which this week released an analysis of required K-12 school funding levels throughout the state. The analysis showed that K-12 schools statewide are underfunded by $656 million, nearly 20 percent below the required level.

On a per-student basis, the shortfall is about $700, if applied equally throughout the state. However, actual shortfalls vary widely among counties, and even among school districts in the same county. The shortfall has impacted school districts in rural areas the most compared to the state’s larger cities such as Kansas City and St. Louis.

As an example of the underfunded disparity among counties; county shortfalls average from a low of $199 per student in Camden County, to a high of $967 per student in Pulaski County. As another example, within Camden County, the shortfall ranges from as low as $74 per student at Camdenton R-III School District, to a high of $871 per student at Stoutland R-II School District. But the county that has suffered the most, according to the analysis, is Pulaski. All seven school districts within the county have a shortfall per student of between $940 and $975.

This week, Kentucky House and Senate negotiators agreed to suspend the state law requiring school districts to have 170 days of class so long as they have at least 1,062 hours of classroom instruction. This is due to the unusual, extreme snowy weather that blanketed the state, making school bus travel treacherous.

An AP report said the agreement allows school districts to lengthen the school day to a max of seven hours to make up the lost time. School districts also can have class on May 20, which is election day. For school districts that don’t meet the hour threshold after exhausting all other options, which is less than 10 school districts, the school year will end on June 6.

The Kentucky School Boards Association reports that, as of March 11, seven out of 173 school districts had missed at least 30 days of classes; another 40 missed at least 20 days; and 24 districts missed less than 10. But Lawrence County, a district near the border to West Virginia, missed more than 30 days.

A preliminary $800,000 settlement was agreed to this week in a lawsuit brought against the Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa Bay, Fla., after a student died after she stopped breathing on her school bus more than two years ago. Video showed the school bus driver and aide did not call 911, and instead called dispatch for help, as the policy stated, but could not reach a supervisor. So they called the girl’s mother on her cell phone, and the mother arrived on scene and called 911 about eight minutes after the incident began. The girl died the next day.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that the deal marks the second time in four months that the district has agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to resolve claims over the death of a special-needs student, bringing the total to at least $1.3 million. Two months prior to the Jan. 25, 2012 incident a student with Down syndrome drowned in a pool behind a school after wandering away from a gym class.

The School Board is meeting on the settlement on Tuesday. The agreement also must be approved by Hillsborough County Probate Court.

The settlement caps more than a year of litigation, in which attorneys for the family sought to prove the district’s exceptional student education program was so lacking that it amounted to “deliberate indifference” and a denial of students’ civil rights. The settlement means those questions will go unanswered.

In related news, the Tampa Bay Tribune reported that Hillsborough school bus drivers must now call 911 when a medical emergency occurs and are receiving more training in handling students with disabilities to go through a new debriefing process when a medically fragile student has an issue on a school bus.

Cummins announced a new application being designed to work seamlessly with leading telematics systems. The company said Cummins Connected Diagnostics will provide customers with expert recommendations for the best action to take when a driver is alerted to an engine system fault. Connected Diagnostics is the first of several telematics-assisted applications that Cummins is developing.

“Cummins is excited to announce Connected Diagnostics as part of its largerinitiative to integrate our engine expertise with existing telematics,” said Jeff Jones, Cummins vice president of North American engine business. “Within moments of a fault code being presented, Cummins will be able to analyze fault information, identify the most likely root cause and provide a recommended action for the customer. In conjunction with the breadth and capability of the Cummins-authorized service network, our ability to understand issues immediately allows us to provide the right level of support at the right time for our customers.”

Cummins Connected Diagnostics will be available in limited production laterin 2014, with full production release planned for 2015.

Starting Wednesday school buses in Georgetown, Texas, will have safety cameras to ID drivers who fail to stop when buses are dropping off students and picking them up, reported KXAN-TV.

Five of the Georgetown Independent School District 112 buses now have cameras from American Traffic Solutions. Georgetown ISD Transportation Director Walt Prothro said they will continually check for hotspots, areas where they see frequent violations, and rotate the buses with the cameras.

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