District investigates after hot school bus lands kids in hospital

2 treated for heat exhaustion; bus company, school district looking into incident

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The school district is investigating after a mother said two of her children had to go the hospital Wednesday with heat exhaustion after they were left on a hot school bus.

Jolene Carlton's 10-year-old daughter, Taylor, came home from the hospital Thursday morning. Along with the school district, the bus company is now investigating concerns from parents that children are sitting for too long on the hot bus.

Carlton's daughters, Taylor and 8-year-old Sylvia, are picked up from Chimney Lakes Elementary School by a Birnie Bus Service driver. Both were treated at the hospital Wednesday night for heat exhaustion, and Taylor had to spend the night and receive IV treatment because she couldn't stop throwing up.

"When I got my girls off the bus, they (the windows) were not rolled up, but my girls were pouring with sweat when they got off the bus," Carlton said.

Carlton said she is furious with the bus company because she said the past few days, the bus driver has been pulling over, while the kids sit for an hour without air conditioning, and with temperatures nearing triple-digits, the children are in grave danger.

Another mom said her son was on the same bus and also sat in the heat and was dropped off much later than he should have been.

"Red faces, overheated," Yulia Englade said, describing the children on the bus. "He didn't throw up, but I know yesterday kids cried and threw up on the bus."

Birnie Bus Service released a statement that said the bus was held up at Enterprise Learning Academy, the next stop after Chimney Lakes, due to an overload situation. The Enterprise school officials and Birnie Bus Service were trying to solve that situation.

"We wanted to make sure that all students were accounted for and on the correct bus," the statement said. "This was the delay in buses at the school."

The Duval County school district is investigating the delay that led to the heat issues.

"These bus incidents are unacceptable to the district, families, and especially the children we serve each day," Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said. "As a district, we will take ownership of this incident by problem solving with our bus contractors and more importantly hold them accountable to improving transportation of our students."

School bus drivers told News4Jax that buses are hot boxes, because unless they service special needs students, they don't have air conditioning. The drivers think Florida lawmakers should make AC mandatory on all school buses.

"It's very, very nerve racking for me," Carlton said of the incident. "I can promise you they will probably never, ever ride a bus again."

Vitti said if parents or students have other complaints about transportation, they should call 381-RIDE to let officials know of the problems.

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