In October, a Norman High School bus carrying band students to a competition went up in flames just minutes after the students rushed out of the vehicle. Now, the district's insurance company has denied reimbursement of the students' personal items.
The fire closed both directions of Interstate 44 near Lawton and destroyed one of the district's charter buses. Parents are being told they have to file what's called a "notice of tort claim" to get reimbursed for their children's personal losses.
It was a scary afternoon for about 130 Norman High School band members who were on their way to a competition in Lawton. One of three charter buses was suddenly engulfed in flames and dark smoke.
"We just saw smoke, and we thought, ‘Gosh, I hope it's not a bus full of kids,'" said a band parent. "And we realized it's our kids' school. I burst into tears."
Fortunately, all 43 kids on board got off safely.
Band instruments and uniforms were charred, along with about $40,000 worth of personal items. But the only thing insurance will cover is what the district owned.
"As a district, we felt committed to trying to help parents with those things also, so we needed to look at what the legal process was to do that," said Norman Schools Superintendent Dr. Joseph Siano.
Siano says the district has been working closely with its insurance company and legal advisor to be sure all venues for personal reimbursement have been investigated.
According to a letter sent to parents, the district's insurance company has denied the reimbursement of students' personal items.
"The parents would just file a notice of tort claim, not actually file a tort claim," said Siano. "We've provided that for them, and then we've provided a reimbursement sheet for them."
The forms will be submitted to the district and brought to the school board for approval. At that point, parents will be reimbursed.
"We were just pleased that it was these kinds of things that were lost, because it certainly could have been a tragedy, but it wasn't," said Siano.
Siano will ask the Norman School Board to take a look at the claims at the next school board meeting. He's asking parents to submit their claims no later than Jan. 6.