Family sues Pella school district after 3-year-old left in school van for hours

Updated: Jun. 22, 2021 at 9:04 AM CDT
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PELLA, Iowa (KCCI) - A Pella family is suing the Pella Community School District after their 3-year-old niece with special needs was left in a school district van for hours.

The incident happened in April.

Earlier this month, Pella police said they would not file charges against the driver.

Three-year-old Alivea Cole - who is non-verbal, has hearing aids, and has a feeding tube, was left inside a Pella School District van for more than two hours.

When her aunt, Tiffany Spoelstra, went to pick her up from school, she learned Alivea was unaccounted for.

The police ruled it an accident and the driver was not charged. The school district fired the driver and said it was taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Alivea’s health plan requires a staff member to monitor her all day, and she is at a high-risk for choking.

The family’s attorney says the school put Alivea’s life in danger.

“Where was that staff member when Alivea didn’t show up to school? Why didn’t anyone call Tiffany? Why did Tiffany have to be the one to show up to the school and say, ‘where is Alivea?’” said Andrew Heiting-Doane, attorney at law with LaMarca Law Group.

The District says they are making changes to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

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