Bills that would force the Palm Beach County School Board to pay nearly $2 million to two students who were injured by wrongdoing by district employees were unanimously approved by a Florida Senate subcommittee on Wednesday.
The bills – one of which would provide $994,000 to Altavious Carter for injuries he sustained in a 2005 crash with a school bus and another that would provide $1 million to a mentally challenged Pahokee girl who was raped by a fellow student on a school bus in 2007 – are now headed to the full Appropriations Committee. The bills are identical to those pending in the Florida House.
Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Chairman Don Gaetz, who blocked what are known as claims bills from being considered when he was senate president from 2012-2014, voted in favor of both bills. He supported them only after being assured they had School Board support.
The bills join two others pending before the powerful appropriations committee that involve children who were injured in the county. One would force the Florida Department of Children & Families to pay $5 million to a former Wellington youth who was sexually assaulted by a foster child. The other would require DCF to pay $3.75 million to Victor Barahona, who in 2004 was discovered in a van along Interstate 95 near West Palm Beach next to the lifeless body of his sister.
DCF agreed to pay Barahona the money for abuse he suffered at the hands of his adoptive parents. Palm Beach County juries awarded the other children the money. But, under Florida law, there is a $200,000 cap on damages governments can pay for wrongdoing. To get more, the legislature must approve what are known as claims bills.