A mother whose daughter was left stranded on a Smithson-Craighead Academy school bus filed suit this week against the nonprofit agency that operates the Metro charter school.
The suit, filed in Davidson County Circuit Court, stems from a much-publicized incident a year ago when a 7-year-old girl and Smithson-Craighead student was locked in a bus parked at the schoolyard. The girl, unbeknownst to the driver, had fallen asleep on the bus.
According to the suit, the child fell asleep on her way home from school and therefore didn’t exit at her normal bus stop. After completing his route, the driver returned the bus to the Smithson-Craighead campus where he locked the bus inside a locked chain-linked fence.
“[The girl] awoke to discover that she was cold and alone inside a school bus which was parked inside a locked fence,” the suit reads. “[She] became so afraid that she urinated on herself in her clothing. After prying open the school bus, [she] unsuccessfully attempted to squeeze through the locked gate of the fenced enclosure.”
Finally, the suit contends, after the girl cried for assistance, a neighbor resident “scaled the fenced enclosure” to rescue the child at 6:29 p.m., two and a half hours after she boarded the bus.
Her mother was unable to communicate with anyone at Smithson-Craighead until the next day, according to the suit.
A year after the incident, the suit claims, the girl is afraid to attend school, afraid of all buses, requires a nightlight to sleep, receives mental health counseling and has started to experience nightmares.
Plaintiffs, receiving legal counsel from attorneys Gary Blackburn and John Ray Clemmons, are seeking $500,000 in punitive damages and $250,000 in compensatory damages.
The complaint has been filed against Project Reflect Inc., a nonprofit organization that founded Smithson-Craighead and carries out the school operations, which include its bus system. The suit accuses the defendant of acting with negligence.
Attorney Charles Grant, who provides legal representation for Project Reflect, said he hadn’t seen the suit and declined to comment.