One year after Norman bus crash, children still recovering and mother seeking answers

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NORMAN, Okla. – One year after a devastating school bus crash, children from Cleveland Elementary in Norman are still recovering with limited help from the district.

“Even though it’s been almost a calendar year, the bus crash was yesterday, we relive it every single night,” Leslie Draper said.

Her now 12-year-old daughter, Piper is still traumatized. She was one of 25 girls thrown out of their seats when a Norman bus crashed and rolled in Lampasas, Texas last September.

“When she called me, she was hysterical,” Draper said. “She said that she was covered in blood and that her head hurt.”

After suffering a broken shoulder, a concussion, and severe PTSD, Piper is still in recovery. She’s only one of the students diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. But it’s the memories that still haunt her.

“She doesn’t sleep, she is very emotional. When she gets triggered, she acts out,” Draper said.

It all requires long term care and Piper wasn’t even the most severely injured.

But as bills continue to stack up, payment by the district’s insurance is over, capped at $1 million to be split among those injured.

Draper said it’s a hard injustice to swallow.

“To have to pay tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands in medical bills when all we did was let our kid go on a school field trip seems very unfair,” she said.

She believes it’s a major failure of the state to protect her child and the others.

“How can a million dollars possibly cover the medical bills of 24 children on a bus?” Draper said. “They get a get-out-responsibility-free card, and we’re left to pick up the pieces.”

Draper also has questions about who caused the crash in the first place.

Cleveland Elementary principal Ty Bell was driving the bus the day of the crash. He was later ticketed for unsafe speed for the road conditions, a citation his attorney said he did not contest.

There is video from inside the bus that shows what happened in the moments just before and after the crash. Norman Public Schools refuses to release that video.

News 4 contacted the judge in charge of the case. Right now, he’s refusing to release that video as well.

The station filed a Freedom of Information request in an attempt to get the video, hoping it will clear up any question about who or what caused the crash.

Norman Public Schools sent News 4 the following statement:

Our focus from the onset has been to care for our students, teachers and families. Oklahoma state law limits the amount of insurance coverage a district can have, and the district carried the maximum coverage allowed by law. We worked diligently with the insurance company to ensure the full $1 million coverage amount was made available to impacted families and we submitted payment to the Cleveland County District Court as soon as the court permitted us to do so. The court also entered an order to distribute an additional $50,000 to injured students. The court will now determine and oversee the process for distributing the funds to impacted families.

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