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Johnston School Board, Driver Face Lawsuit Over March 2000 Wreck

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SMITHFIELD, N.C. — Some Johnston County parents whose children were injured in an accident on a school campus nearly three years ago plan to file a lawsuit against the school board and the driver.

On March 22, 2000, Sara Bell Kennedy, 84, lost control of her minivan and hit a group of children at Smithfield Middle School. Byrone J. Murray, 11, of Clayton was killed and four other students; Curtis Price, Blake Creech, Tony Frazier and Antwan Patterson, were seriously injured.

Now the children's parents and guardians say Kennedy and the Johnston Board of Education should be liable for their children's continuing medical expenses and more.

The families allege school policies required students to wait outside the building for school to begin, allowing them to gather in an area that, according to the lawsuit, "created an unreasonable risk of harm."

"I feel it's going to be the board's position that the Board of Education has no liability in this matter," said Jim Lawrence, attorney for the Johnston County school board.

The day after the accident, then-principal Patricia Harris told WRAL News there was no written policy about keeping students outside before school.

"The practice has been that they do stay outside until that 7:35 bell rings," she said in an interview in March 2000.

Because investigators ruled it an accident, Kennedy was not charged.

The parents and their lawyers declined to speak to WRAL about the lawsuit.


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