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A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit filed against a Tennessee school district in connection with a 2016 school bus crash that killed six students and injured several others, stating its dismissal from the litigation was premature.
The November 2016 accident occurred when the bus, which was carrying 37 students, slammed into a tree, flipped over and split apart, killing the six children, who were aged 6 to 10, and injuring several others, according to news reports.
The school bus driver was subsequently found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in connection with the accident and sentenced to four years in prison in April, according to the news reports.
The U.S. District Court in Greeneville, Tennessee, dismissed litigation filed on behalf of the injured children against the school district, the school bus driver and the school principal individually, according to Thursday’s ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in M.S. et al. v. Hamilton County Department of Education et al.
The ruling affirmed dismissal of the case against the school bus company, Lisle, Illinois-based Durham School Services LP, but reinstated the litigation against the school district.
“Plaintiffs’ theory of liability is that (the school) principal failed to protect the students from a danger that the principal created, in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” said the ruling.
The ruling , which states the school district and the bus company had received multiple complaints about the driver before the accident, says the plaintiffs charge the principal was culpable because she had instructed the children to board the bus knowing the driver’s driving was dangerous.
“Whether these allegations will be borne out by evidence must wait for later stage in this litigation, which should not have been terminated at the motion-to-dismiss stage,” said the ruling in reversing the lower court’s decision.
A federal appeals court has reinstated a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by a terminated African-American school driver, based on the fact that similarly situated white bus drivers allegedly received more lenient treatment for their wrongdoing.