Summary of a January 2016 memo from MSDE entitled “Frequently asked questions about transportation and children with disabilities”.
Do the regulations for Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), published in the Federal Register on August 14, 2006 address the related service transportation? IDEA defines the related service transportation. In addition, transportation is addressed in a memorandum issued by OSEP entitled, Questions and Answers on Serving Children with Disabilities Eligible for Transportation (November 2009).
What is the definition of the related service transportation? Transportation (Part B) includes– (i)
1. “Travel to and from school and between schools
2. Travel in and around school buildings, and
3. equipment (such as special or adapted buses, lifts, and ramps) if required to provide special transportation for a child with a disability.” (34 CFR §300.34 (c)(16)
How is eligibility for transportation services determined? It is the responsibility of the IEP team, including the parent, to determine eligibility for transportation to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education and related services. The IEP team should include all personnel necessary to make an informed decision in order to provide safe transportation and meet the individual needs of a child with a disability.
What transportation services should the IEP describe? “The IEP should describe the transportation services required to and from school including participation in nonacademic and extracurricular activities, as appropriate in order to afford equal opportunity for participation in those services and activities to the maximum extent appropriate to meet the needs of that child.” (34 CFR §§300.107 and 300.117)
When should it be determined if a child requires a climate controlled school bus? “Climate-controlled transportation is not explicitly required under the IDEA. However, if an IEP team determines that a child needs climate-controlled transportation to receive special education services, related services, or both, and the child’s IEP specifies that such transportation is necessary, the LSS must provide this special transportation at no cost to the parents.
How is it determined if a school bus attendant is required on the school bus transporting children with disabilities? A determination regarding the assignment of a school bus attendant to assist with the supervision of children with disabilities is a LSS decision. However, it is the responsibility of the IEP team to determine if an individual child requires a bus attendant in order to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). This decision should be recorded on the IEP document and include the specific accommodations required for the student for the bus attendant to ensure safe transportation.
Does least restrictive environment (LRE) apply to the transportation of children with disabilities? Yes. (COMAR 13A.05.01.10) states that: “A public agency shall ensure that: The educational placement decision of a student with a disability is: 1. made by the IEP team; made in conformity with the LRE provision of the Act and Regulation .10 of this chapter; 2.determined at least annually; 3. based on the student’s IEP; and as close as possible to the student’s home;
What transportation considerations should be discussed prior to finalizing a nonpublic placement decision? It is necessary to consider the length of ride time and the impact on the child to benefit from FAPE. At the IEP Team meeting special education and related service personnel, parents, and transportation personnel should discuss the impact of the length of ride time on an individual child. The IDEA regulations state: “The child’s placement is as close as possible to the child’s home; and in selecting the LRE, consideration is given to any potential harmful effect on the child or on the quality of services that he or she needs.” (34 CFR §300.116 (d))
What is the maximum amount of time a child may spend on a school bus traveling to and from school? The IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act do not specifically address an appropriate length of ride time that is required. However, Section 504 has provided past remedies in specific instances when a lengthy bus ride may be discriminatory and when the denial of a FAPE has occurred. of discrimination.
Is transportation to and from childcare centers required under the IDEA? The IDEA does not specifically address this matter. Each LSS is encouraged to address this issue and make it known to parents at the IEP meeting the LSS written policies and procedures on this matter. Children with disabilities must be afforded the same opportunities as children without disabilities. Transportation to childcare centers for children within specific geographic boundary areas should apply equally to children with disabilities.
When should pickup and drop-off location be determined? It is appropriate at the time of the IEP meeting to determine bus stop location including pickup and drop-off location such as curb-to-curb service. Neither IDEA nor Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act specifically addresses whether transportation should be from a designated bus stop or from the curbside in front of a child’s home. This decision is left to the IEP team and based upon the individual needs of the child. Each IEP team decision should be made on an individual basis, taking into consideration the child’s cognitive level, emotional stability, physical functioning, and chronological age. Pickup location should not be a unilateral transportation office decision.
When may a child with a disability be suspended from school bus transportation? “If transportation is included in the child’s IEP, a bus suspension must be treated as a suspension and all of the discipline procedures applicable to children with disabilities would apply. An LSS is not required to provide alternative transportation to a child with a disability who has been suspended from transportation for 10 school days or less unless the LSS provides alternative transportation to children without disabilities who have been similarly suspended from bus service.
When should bullying on school buses be addressed? Immediately. Drivers and bus attendants should observe and report bullying behavior on the school bus to LSS designated administrative personnel. Ignored bullying may prevent children with disabilities from receiving a safe ride to and from school. Bullying can constitute a violation by preventing children with disabilities from access to education because of a fear for their safety. Bullying should be addressed consistent with federal and State law as well as written and practiced LSS policies and procedures.
Does FERPA specifically address transportation? All transportation personnel provided personally identifiable student information should be trained regarding FERPA requirements specific to children with disabilities.
Is the LSS required to provide information to school transportation personnel including bus drivers and attendants to ensure that the confidentiality protections of children who are transported are protected? “Each person, including a school bus driver, who collects or uses personally identifiable information concerning a child with a disability, must receive training or instruction about the State’s policies and procedures protecting the confidentiality of such information
What are the requirements to allow a service animal to ride a school bus? The use of service animals on the school bus should take into consideration seating arrangements and location of the animal, emergencies, evacuations and the needs of other students such as allergies. For a child riding a school bus with a service animal, it is good practice to provide an orientation about the animal to the other children and parents and to address questions and concerns prior to initiating services. Positive communication and accurate information will foster receptiveness. Prohibiting a certified service animal to accompany a child on the bus can be illegal under IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the ADA. The United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) website at http://www.usdoj.gov/ provides information about service animals as does the ADA website http://www.ada.gov/ and the National Network website at http://adata.org/factsheet/service-animals
Is there a requirement to address sexual harassment on school buses? Yes. Children with disabilities who are intellectually limited or nonverbal may be particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment from other children or school district employees. They may not fully appreciate the inappropriateness of sexually oriented behaviors; they may be unsure how to respond; and they may feel helpless to stop unwelcome conduct. Drivers and attendants should receive training to recognize sexual harassment and take immediate steps outlined in the LSS policies and procedures and federal regulations and guidelines to eliminate any form of sexual harassment. Transporters should assist by bringing concerns immediately to the appropriate personnel to facilitate resolution.
Are children with disabilities required to participate in evacuation drills? Children with disabilities should participate and practice evacuation procedures to the same extent as nondisabled peers. Occupational and physical therapists are excellent resource personnel to assist with the planning for safe evacuation drills. All children with disabilities should be part of practice drills to the maximum extent appropriate.
Are there special considerations that should be addressed by the IEP Team in accordance with the LSS policies and procedures? The following are some of the special considerations that should be addressed by the IEP Team including qualified personnel to make informed decisions: Diastat Administration on School Buses; Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Orders; EpiPen Use; Extra-Curricular Activity Busing; Field Trip Participation; First Aid Training Of School Bus Drivers And Aides; Medication Transport; Nursing Services; Oxygen Transport; Parent Reimbursement; and Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS) Use. This list is not exhaustive. Additional areas may be required to be addressed by an IEP Team on a case-by-case basis. (Transporting Children with Disabilities, 5th Edition, National Association for Pupil Transportation, 2014). When should the need for specialized equipment be addressed? The need for specialized equipment on school buses for children with disabilities should be addressed at the IEP team meeting and documented on the IEP. When specialized equipment is required it must be based on an individual child’s unique needs. It is unacceptable to make decisions about specialized equipment requirements outside of the IEP team meeting.
What is the benefit of providing parents with a contact person to address transportation issues and concerns? It is recommended that at each child’s IEP meeting parents be provided with contact information regarding who should be called in the transportation or special education office based upon the circumstance. In addition, it is essential that parent calls be timely returned in accordance with the LSS policies and procedures.