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One week ago today, on July 20, six-year-old Fajr Williams was strangled to death by the seat belt on her school bus. As reported here, Fajr, a Franklin Township Public Schools student, was non-verbal and used a wheelchair. There was a school bus monitor, Amanda Divila, assigned to her bus who strapped her into seat as she did daily. When the bus hit a bump, Fajr slumped down into her seat with the straps catching under her chin but Divila didn’t respond because she was on her phone with her earbuds in.
Divala has been charged with by the Somerset County prosecutor with second-degree manslaughter and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
In response to this tragedy, education law attorney Jamie Epstein, who represents students with disabilities and general education students in disputes with school districts, has filed a rulemaking petition with the New Jersey Department of Education proposing “Fajr’s Law.” According to the petition, the new statute, under N.J.A.C. § 6A:27-11.1(c)(4), would require bus contractors “to provide a live video feed to district Boards of Education of the interior of their buses while transporting students.”
Fajr had Emanuel syndrome, a rare chromosomal disease that can cause decreased muscle tone, developmental delays, severe intellectual disabilities, microcephaly, distinctive facial features, small jaw, ear anomalies, cleft palate, heart defects, and kidney malformations. Fajr’s mother, Najmah Nash, said although her daughter couldn’t speak, she was able to “make baby coos and happy sounds” and was “full of life and joy.”