Mother of child, 4, left on bus sues Balto. Co. for $6 million

Boy was alone 90 minutes in sub-freezing weather

September 29, 2001|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

The mother of a 4-year-old preschool student has filed a $6 million lawsuit against Baltimore County after her son was left unattended on a school bus last year in sub-freezing temperatures for about 90 minutes.

Nicole Lucas of the 4000 block of Woodlea Ave. alleges in the lawsuit filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court that her son Malik suffered "grave, permanent psychological trauma" as a result of the incident Jan. 18, 2000.

The lawsuit filed this week alleges that county school officials were negligent in hiring the school bus driver and bus attendant assigned to transport Malik from Halstead Academy elementary school to his home in the 100 block of Solar Circle in Hillendale.

The driver, Louise N. McLean, 57, of Glen Arm, and the attendant, Elisabeth Linde, 64, of Perry Hall, were fired for failing to complete a search of the bus and leaving Malik alone in a locked bus at a gated yard near Kenwood High School in eastern Baltimore County, school officials said.

A school employee found Malik asleep, with a soiled diaper, in a locked bus at the Kenwood yard, on a day when temperatures barely reached the mid-20s.

County Attorney Edward Gillis declined to comment on the lawsuit yesterday.

The incident was the first of three cases over a six-week period last year in which county school children were left on buses.

State legislators reprimanded Rita Fromm, the school system's director of transportation, in a meeting with school officials in February 2000. Anthony G. Marchione, then superintendent of county schools, announced a "zero tolerance" policy that called for the dismissal of any bus drivers who left children on school buses.

No other parents have filed a similar lawsuit, according to county Circuit Court records.

Lucas was unavailable yesterday, but said shortly after the incident that her son has a speech impediment that makes it difficult for him to be understood. She also said she became worried when her son failed to return home and sent the boy's father, Ben T. Wilkins, to Halstead to look for him.

She also said that after the incident Malik returned to Halstead, but that he refused to ride the bus and no longer trusted school bus drivers.

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