An 11-year-old girl was left in critical condition and fighting for her life immediately after stepping off a school bus. As her family hoped and prayed for her recovery, police launched an investigation into the bus company contracted by the district, and it’s made many parents uneasy about school transportation.
Shianne Dean was on a bus operated by the Monarch Bus Company when she arrived at her stop at the intersection of 23rd Avenue North and Penn Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Immediately after Shianne stepped off the bus, the 11-year-old was hit by a passing car as she crossed the street. “When he hit her, she flew up in the air and came back down and my baby hadn’t talked since,” LaTonya Williams recalled. “She hasn’t opened her eyes since.”
Instead of enjoying her weekend with her family, Shianne underwent two surgeries for swelling in her brain and other injuries following the Friday afternoon accident. Meanwhile, the driver who struck the child was arrested by police for being under the influence, but officers quickly learned there may be another significant problem that contributed to the crash.
According to witnesses, the bus’ stop sign, or “stop arm,” did not come out at the time of the incident. Williams was also told the bus driver did not use the flashing lights while her daughter crossed the street. Since the state statute says “the stop signal arm must be used in conjunction with the flashing red signals” when “the school bus is stopped on a street or highway to load or unload school children,” Minneapolis Police launched an investigation.
According to Fox 9, Stonebridge World Charter School, where Shianne is a 5th-grade student, has partnered with the Monarch Bus Company for about three years and never had any issues, but authorities do not believe the stop arm was out at the time of the crash. The Executive Director for Stonebridge World Charter School said they do not have a board-approved bus policy. They do, however, continually review safety guidelines with all of their contractors.
“This dear student is in our thoughts as is her family and the Stonebridge community stands ready to do what we can to support the family, our students and staff during this time,” the school said in a statement, adding that a support team will be on site for both students and staff following the tragic ordeal.
“Student safety is of utmost importance to us, and that is why our foremost thoughts and prayers are with the student, her family, and the entire Stonebridge World School community,” the Monarch Bus Company said in a statement. “We are working with local law enforcement and the school during the ongoing investigation of this incident.”
Lobbyists from the Minnesota Association for Pupil Transportation have recognized a problem with over 100,000 stop arm signals violations occurring a year. Although there have been several legislative items in the works, including a $50,000 grant to create a public awareness campaign and an effort to equip these stop arms with their own cameras, those measures had not gone anywhere. In addition, stop arm violators are rarely prosecuted by courts.
Meanwhile, a child has been left fighting for her life in critical condition at North Memorial. “She’s a fun-loving girl. Always smiling. Really helpful,” LaTonya Williams said, talking about her daughter Shianne, according to KARE 11. “She’s a fighter,” she added but admits that what she witnessed that Friday afternoon has haunted her as she continues to pray for Shianne’s recovery.
“All I can see is my daughter laying there with her eyes rolling in the back of her head,” Williams said. “She was getting off the bus coming from school, from learning, and you struck a child,” the grief-stricken mother said. “That’s not fair,” she added, but she refused to give up hope. “Hoping and praying for a full recovery,” she said. “She’s strong. I said it ain’t time for her to go. Shianne is coming home.”
“No mom deserves this,” added Shianne Dean’s Uncle LeRoy Gillum. And, we couldn’t agree more. No parent should have to fear for their child’s safety, and no child should have to fear for their life when getting off or on the bus. Yet, that’s exactly the reality we live in. Typically, that’s due to distracted drivers who selfishly put others in danger. To hear that the employees of the companies contracted by our schools could also be failing to follow basic safety procedures is unforgivable.