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Michelle Grisham steps down from a school bus after talking to her daughter Amy, who is seated inside.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Michelle Grisham steps down from a school bus after talking to her daughter Amy, who is seated inside.

Sheriff investigating claim of endangerment on buses

By Bayne Hughes 340-2432

Are Brewer High special education students sitting on hot buses with the motor and air conditioning off while they wait for Sparkman School students to get out of class?

Two Morgan County deputies were at Sparkman on Friday afternoon investigating possible child endangerment after Michelle Grisham of Somer-ville filed an incident report early that morning.

Grisham claimed that, from Monday's opening day of school to Thursday, two special education mini-buses came from Brewer and children sat in the hot buses 15 to 20 minutes without water or air conditioning. Temperatures were in the 100-degree range this week.

State law requires mini-buses carrying special needs students to have air conditioning.

"My daughter came home looking like a beet on Thursday," Grisham said. "And she didn't want to get on the bus the next morning."

Sparkman Principal Ronnie Moore and Morgan County Schools Transportation Director Bruce Kimbrell dispute Grisham's claims of endangerment.

"I've been here for almost 11 years, and we've never had a (heat-related) problem with a child," Moore said. "We've been doing this the same way for years with very few problems."

Moore said the students usually don't have to wait that long on a daily basis.

He said a student with irritable bowel syndrome had an accident Thursday afternoon that delayed the bus, which was also having air conditioning problems.

Grisham said she understands that problems occur, but said school officials should have taken the students off the bus, put them inside and given them water.

"They could have killed someone, and then they wouldn't need school," Grisham said.

On Friday, Kimbrell replaced the problem bus with a backup bus and the air conditioning was blowing hard enough to move the bus driver's and bus aide's hair.

Grisham said school officials were making more of an effort, but she still wasn't completely happy because school officials had not provided bottled water as promised.

Moore promised her that all the buses would have bottled water available Monday.

Deputy Butch Jacobs said he could see how it takes time to load the buses because of the number of wheelchair-bound students. He said school officials should provide the students with water.

Grisham is also unhappy that the school hasn't provided her daughter, who is legally blind and deaf, with an aide who can do sign language. She said her daughter was unable to communicate her discomfort Thursday afternoon.

Moore said he would move her daughter Monday to a bus with a driver who does sign language.

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