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Court clears Youngstown schools of fault in student’s death

YOUNGSTOWN — The 7th District Court of Appeals has ruled that Youngstown City Schools is not civilly liable for the 2014 death of Faith McCullough, an East High School student who was killed when she stumbled off of the sidewalk near the school and was run over by a city school bus.

The decision reverses a June 2018 ruling from former Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge Lou D’Apolito when he denied summary judgment to the school district, meaning he refused to rule on behalf of the school district without a trial. The ruling ends the lawsuit unless the girl’s family appeals.

The ruling says McCullough, 14, and her brother were on their way home from school when they walked down a terraced hill above East High Avenue. They decided to roll down part of the hill.

The next day, the girl decided to roll down the entire hill while her brother waited at the bottom. A school bus driver had stopped in the street because of traffic and saw the girl roll down the hill. The driver was concerned for the girl’s safety and waited before proceeding forward, the decision says.

At the bottom of the hill, the girl stood up on the sidewalk with help from her brother, and the driver moved the bus forward. Moments later, however, the girl started to stumble toward the road, apparently dizzy, then fell under the rear wheels of the bus, causing a head injury that killed her.

The girl’s father, Maximus McCullough, sued the school district, alleging the district was negligent by failing to prohibit the student’s access to the hillside. It also alleged the driver negligently drove the bus.

The driver said during depositions that she had seen the girl rolling down the hill the previous day and transmitted a radio announcement that she believed would be heard by other bus drivers and passed along to the bus garage and school administrators.

In denying summary judgment, Judge D’Apolito said there was “a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the driver was negligent by moving forward after gaining knowledge of the dangerous activity of rolling down a hill toward a road, noting that [a bus] video showed stumbling after the student stood.”

The ruling states Judge D’Apolito’s ruling was being reversed on the grounds that the hill did not represent a “physical defect on the school grounds” and that the district has a type of immunity granted to political subdivisions.

The ruling also stated the district was not negligent regarding the bus driver.

“Generally, a driver does not have a duty to continually scan for approaching objects which may threaten to violate her right-of-way,” the ruling states.

“The Ohio Supreme Court rejected the premise that a driver with the right-of-way was required to ‘look, look effectively and continue to look and otherwise remain alert'” in a case involving a similar circumstance, the ruling states.

erunyan@tribtoday.com