The death of a young student highlights recent incidents involving police officers and school bus stop safety.
On Friday, Officer Andria Heese was driving in a roundabout at Battle High School in Columbia, Missouri, just before 4 p.m. Heese proceeded to drive onto the sidewalk and hit a 4-year-old girl, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol crash report.
The crash report said the officer had intended to park on the “sidewalk so that the driver could observe students loading onto the school bus.”
The 4-year-old girl, Gabriella Curry, was transported to the University of Missouri Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
In October 2018, the chief of police in Newark, Ohio, was caught on video illegally passing a school bus while children were exiting, according to abc.6.com.
The article reported that Chief Barry Connell said he thought police officers were exempt from the school bus passing law. However, the Ohio Department of Education’s Pupil Transportation Operation and Safety Rules contradicts that claim.
According to the document, a fine for illegal passing cannot exceed $500, and the alleged violator must appear in the proper court to answer the charge. Stricter penalties, such as suspension of the driving license, may be issued.
News outlets reported that the Newark Police Department is offering training and refresher courses to all of its officers after the incident. School Transportation News reached out to the PD for comment, but has not heard back at the time of this writing.
The fatal incident last Friday, however, resulted in Officer Heese being placed on administrator leave, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
All Columbia Public Schools have school resource officers (SROs) on campus each day from when students arrive, through the time of dismissal, Baumstark added. She explained it was “absolutely” normal for police officers to be driving on that part of the roadway, based on the school bus pick-up and drop-off location.
Gabriella’s parents are school bus drivers for the high school, and news reports indicated that they are contracted through Student Transportation of America. They performed dismissal routes, while Gabriella rode the bus with her parents, Columbia Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred in Columbia on Friday afternoon,” STA said in a statement to School Transportation News. “Our deepest condolences go out to our two STA Columbia family members. As partners in this community, safety is our first priority, and we extend our sincere sympathy to all involved.”