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Girl's family sues Pinellas schools over her death

The lawsuit blames the district for dropping the St. Petersburg third-grader off on the wrong side of the road.

By DONNA WINCHESTER, Times Staff Writer
Published December 3, 2005

The family of Brooke Ingoldsby, the third-grader who was run over and killed at a St. Petersburg bus stop earlier this year, has sued the Pinellas school district.

The law firm of Ciarciaglino, Coyle and Gell filed a wrongful-death suit Friday on behalf of Brooke's mother, Michelle Allen, citing a breach of the district's duty of reasonable care.

The firm informed the district six months ago of its intent to sue, said attorney Debra Gell.

"There were statements made that they wanted to work with us without the introduction of litigation," Gell said. "Unfortunately, their promises were just hot air. Nothing has happened. We have to go and proceed with the claim for the client."

Brooke, a student at James B. Sanderlin Elementary School, was dropped off Feb. 11 on the wrong side of her stop at 90th Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N. Forced to cross five lanes of rush-hour traffic, the 8-year-old ran into the path of an oncoming car.

She died later that night at Bayfront Medical Center.

St. Petersburg police cleared the 18-year-old driver who hit Brooke. The bus driver, William Ralston, 75, resigned within two weeks of the accident, citing personal reasons.

The suit alleges that the district allowed a bus driver to make an illegal stop in a nondesignated and unsafe area. The suit also alleges that the driver failed to follow a policy of waiting until children have safely crossed any roadway before leaving a stop.

Florida law limits liability to $200,000 for school districts and other public entities, granting them "sovereign immunity." But the Legislature can award more through a claims bill.

Brooke was the second Pinellas student killed in four months after leaving a school bus.

The parents of Rebecca McKinney, a 16-year-old Clearwater High student who was struck Oct. 8, 2004, as she crossed multilane McMullen-Booth Road, filed a lawsuit against the district in July. A Pinellas district official was unable to provide information on that suit.

District spokesman Sterling Ivey said Friday that the transportation department underwent a major renovation during the summer and has worked to move all stops to eliminate the need for children to cross multiple lanes of traffic.

Additionally, Ivey said, a call center was established where parents can report transportation-related concerns.

Gell said a summons will be issued to the school district next week.

[Last modified December 3, 2005, 06:17:43]

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