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State High Court Considers School Bus Driver Liability

The Ohio Supreme Court is considering the role of the school bus driver for student safety.

The Ohio Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday on whether school bus drivers are liable for injuries suffered by students who did not go straight home after leaving the vehicle. 

The Ohio Supreme Court went on the road this week to Mansfield. About 500 local high school students listened in on a case which touches on their own behaviors on school buses. At issue, 6-year-old Amber Salee, a first grader in the small Village of Cleves outside Cincinnati, was struck by a car after getting off a bus.

State law says that the bus driver must not move the bus until a child goes to a safe place on the side of the street where they live. In this case Amber ran down the street to a friend’s house and the driver moved on. Justice Terrence O’Donnell asked just how much does a driver have to do. Attorney Dennis Mahoney, representing Amber’s mother, said whatever it takes.

“Previously kindergarteners and first-graders were not allowed off the bus unless a parent was present,” Mahoney said. 

“Does a bus driver have to wait 10 minutes or 15 minutes until a child decides to cross in your view," Justice Terrence O'Donnell asked. 

“In my view, yes,“ Mahoney said.

The attorney for the school district said it was absurd to follow the law so literally that the driver would wait indefinitely. Part of the case will hinge on whether the court decides that moving the bus led to the accident.