A tale of two probes

Published 7:51 am Saturday, February 7, 2009

We commend the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office for making public the results of its investigation into last month’s death of a 4-year-old Riverdale Elementary School student who was struck by a school bus.

Importantly, the sheriff’s probe cleared the bus driver of criminal negligence. Barbara Ellis, by all accounts a terrific driver who has served the school division and its students effectively for years, deserved that public exoneration. The tragedy alone is enough for one to bear.

Not so forthcoming have been Southampton County school officials, who conducted a parallel investigation but have yet to tell the taxpaying public how its safety systems failed that tragic morning and what’s being done to prevent another death or injury from occurring.

The school on Wednesday quietly changed its procedures for unloading children from buses, but citizens would never have known had a parent not given The Tidewater News a copy of a letter from Superintendent Charles Turner to Riverdale parents outlining the changes.

There’s a crisis of confidence at Riverdale and throughout the county schools as a result of the accident. Rather than confront it with strong leadership and reassurance, county school officials have opted for secrecy, which breeds distrust.