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Third-grader struck by passing car after getting off school bus

A day after 6-year-old Shaud Wilson was killed by a car while crossing the street to his school bus stop, another student was struck by a car after he got off his bus.

On the afternoon of Feb. 4, Desean Denis stepped off a bus on Berkley Drive, a two-lane residential street in Algiers, on his way home from Paul Habans Charter School. Torri Denis, Desean’s father, said the bus drove off. As Desean started to cross the street, a car drove by and struck him on the left cheek with its passenger-side mirror.

Desean was knocked to the ground. Torri Denis said his son lost his two front teeth, severely cut his tongue, suffered head injuries and was bruised on his arms and legs.

The father is upset that the bus drove away after Desean got off. “You probably wouldn’t want to pull off until you see that they have arrived safely,” he said.

Third-grader Desean Denis shows the gap after his front two teeth were knocked out by a car at his bus stop. His father Torri Denis, left, said the boy also cut his tongue, hurt his head and was bruised on his arms and legs.

Jessica Williams / The Lens

Third-grader Desean Denis shows the gap after his front two teeth were knocked out by a car at his bus stop. His father Torri Denis, left, said the boy also cut his tongue, hurt his head and was bruised on his arms and legs.

Desean’s bus is owned by Hammond’s Transportation, the same bus company that handles transportation for Shaud’s school. Raven Murthil, Hammond’s safety manager, said Thursday that company policy requires students to walk in front of the bus, instead of behind the bus. That’s in line with state transportation guidelines.

That day, Desean got off the bus and walked to the sidewalk — rather than in front of the bus — before crossing the street, Murthil said.

The bus pulled off, and the driver wasn’t immediately aware of the accident, she said.

Shaud’s and Desean’s schools are run by Crescent City Schools, which contracts with Hammond’s.

Educators and city officials discussed how to improve bus safety at a forum Wednesday night. Among the options discussed:

  • Centralize transportation, with the Orleans Parish School Board or the Recovery School District handling it rather than the city’s 40-odd charter school groups contracting separately with bus companies.

  • Put crossing guards on highly-trafficked routes.

  • Put more traffic cameras near school zones and along busy thoroughfares.

A live blog of that forum is below.

Murthil stressed that student safety is a priority for Hammond’s. Had Berkley been a multi-lane road, she said, the driver would have waited for children to cross the street before pulling off. And children nine years or younger are not allowed off the bus on those busy streets unless their parents or an older sibling is waiting to escort them across.

“If a driver lets a kid off of the bus under nine without a parent or an older sibling there, it’s a five-day suspension on the first offense. The second time, it’s a termination,” Murthil said.

Denis said he is exploring his legal options. His attorney, John Williams, said Thursday that a police report on the incident was not yet available. Unlike in Shaud Wilson’s case, this driver didn’t leave the scene.

The third-grader said he doesn’t remember anything other than lying on the ground.

“The doctors are doing a great job with him,” his father said. Still, the boy’s injuries are slowing him down a little. Homework is frustrating.

“He didn’t remember that he had spoken with his mom that night, or the next day,” Denis said.

Fox 8 News video

Live blog of public forum

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About Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her reporting on charter school transparency and governance. In 2012, she was part of a team that received a National Edward R. Murrow Award for their work following a New Orleans family's recovery after Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Edna Karr Secondary School in Algiers, and she obtained her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. She can be reached at (504) 575-8191.

  • boathead12

    This could be easily solved if NOPD had the time or inclination to step up enforcement. The law says you must stop for a pedestrian in the crosswalk. When I walk my kids across Magazine in front of the 2nd district station, I usually get cut off by 4 or more cars racing to cut me off and stop 60 ft ahead at the light. A cop stationed there could write 50 tickets in 30 minutes if they could keep up. The same is true throughout the city. Once a few hundred tickets are written, the public might begin to respect the law, and we’d see incidents like these two much less frequently.

  • nickelndime

    Why don’t these schools pay for crossing guards at the pick-up and drop-off points on the routes? School zones are passe’. “Alice doesn’t live here anymore.” Hello! One child has already been killed. It’s not like these nonprofits (charter school boards) don’t have the money – public money to pay crossing guards. They pay 6-figure salaries to administrators and non-teaching personnel for the dog-and-pony shows they (CEO, CAO, CFO, yadda yadda yadda) put on at which they brag about how much they have in reserve (read THE LENS reports on board meetings). These are nonprofits, 4gawdsake! All of the public money should be spent on the students (and yes, that means paying for credentialed classsroom teachers – who are the most expensive and the most experienced and who are degreed in the field of EDUCATION – many at post graduate levels). Aye – there’s the rub – because this is exactly what these nonprofit boards are NOT doing. Either INDICT or SUE, but it needs to be brought under control PDQ!

  • nolagal70118

    Maybe bus stops should not be on such large thoroughfares — 4 lane roads. Seems to me it would be safer to pick up and drop off on a street with less traffic, maybe a block or two off the main route and have the buses drive on the larger and busier streets only for long distances between stops.