Bus safety bill on back burner for now as more comprehensive legislation sought

  • Superintendent Michael Buoniconti at Sanderson Academy in Ashfield in fall of 2016 talks about how the community is handling the death of 9-year-old Summer Steele. Buoniconti urged Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, to file a bus safety bill filed that would require safety sensors for school bus doors. Hinds said this week that the bill may be pushed to the next legislative session to make it broader in scope. gazette file photo

  • SUMMER STEELE

  • Brent Steele, Summer Steele’s father, during his victim impact statement during the change of plea hearing for former bus driver Tendzin Parsons in the Summer Steele case in early September, in Northampton District Court. To his right is Stephen Ferrarone, lawyer for Parsons and Parsons. A bus safety bill filed by Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, that would require safety sensors for school bus doors, may be pushed to the next legislative session to make it broader in scope. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

For The Recorder
Published: 9/25/2017 11:11:22 PM

BOSTON — Nearly a year after a young girl was killed in a school bus accident in western Massachusetts, a bill to require safety sensors for school bus doors is still on the table and may be pushed to next year for more comprehensive legislation.

Last October, 9-year-old Summer Steele died after her backpack became caught in the doors of a school bus in Plainfield. After the accident, her school superintendent contacted Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, to propose legislation to require safety sensors on all school bus doors. The sensors would be designed to ensure that riders have fully cleared the passenger-side door before it closes.

A hearing on the resulting bill, S.1931, took place before the Legislature’s Transportation Committee in May. Since then, Hinds’ office, in a statement to the Gazette, said the senator has been working to add amendments to the bill to address a broader spectrum of safety issues for schoolchildren.

In part, this is in deference to Summer’s family, who have indicated through their attorney to Hinds that they support any legislation that improves safety for children riding school buses and may be open to helping craft a broader bill in the future.

As a result, Hinds’ office said he is not actively pushing to advance the existing bill.

“Our office is waiting to hear from (the Steele family) on their own timetable to discuss a broader bill,” the statement from Hinds said. “We are open to letting this conversation take place in time to file broader legislation for the next legislative session if that is the family’s preference.”

Pretrial hearing: Oct. 17

Meanwhile, Hawley bus driver Tendzin Parsons, 70, awaits a pretrial hearing Oct. 17 on a charge of negligent motor vehicle homicide in the Oct. 28 death of Summer, a third-grade student at Sanderson Academy in Ashfield.

Parsons was expected to plead guilty in Summer’s death in a Northampton District Court hearing earlier this month. He withdrew that plea after listening to tearful and angry words from Summer’s parents and facing a judge who wanted to sentence him to jail instead of probation.


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