Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 gave people with disabilities certain civil rights for the first time and laid the groundwork for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. But Section 504 has never been updated in the 40 years since.
The 23rd Transporting Students with Disabilities and Preschoolers National Conference produced by STN Media Group, publisher of School Transportation News magazine, takes a look at the practical applications of this groundbreaking federal law on education, and getting kids to and from school in the first place. More than 400 attendees from across the country are registered to attend the conference and trade show held at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center, 2800 Opryland Drive. The event begins this Friday, Feb. 28 and concludes the afternoon of Wednesday, March 5.
Onsite registration starts Friday at 11 a.m.
Presenters Peggy A. Burns, an educational law attorney from the Kansas City area, will join Pete Meslin, director of transportation for a Southern California school district, in discussing what changes to Section 504 might increase educational benefits to students while decreasing burdens on transportation and education professionals to meet trending legal demands and to avoid risks.
The Sunday general session – "If We Could Change Section 504, How Would We?" – is one of three planned for the five-day conference. Another general session on Monday will help attendees navigate meetings between transportation representatives and the school district's HR staff, covering the common language, perspective and objectives that are necessary to overcoming misconceptions and biases that may exist.
Meanwhile, Tuesday's general session will provide concrete leadership, motivation and mentoring skills to aid in and help to develop successful, forward-thinking transportation management. This session will provide the perspectives of professionals who have supported each of these important issues.
In all, more than three-dozen workshops will be provided on transporting students with disabilities and preschoolers, including Head Start students, while also focusing on transportation management.
Several hands-on training seminars open up the learning opportunities that day at noon.
Emergency evacuation training takes participants through actions that occurred during an actual emergency and evacuation. Attendees receive detailed step-by-step processes and then are debriefed on what was done correctly and where improvements could be made. Three wheelchair-securement training sessions are then offered, followed by car seat training that provides participants in Saturday's 17th Annual National Special Needs Team Safety Roadeo with instruction and practice on wheelchair securement training from manufacturers. The event is produced in conjunction with the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT).
The Roadeo begins Saturday at 8 a.m. and features dozens of teams of drivers and attendants from across the U.S. as they compete in eight scored events that test their proficiency in: conducting the pre-trip inspection inside and around the bus; loading students in wheelchairs and properly securing them; managing student behavior; car seat securement; and crossing railroad tracks, navigating a serpentine course and backing up the bus into an alley. The two-dozen participating teams must also complete a written exam that consists of five sections and measures and increases knowledge of transporting students with disabilities and preschoolers.
Awards will be given during a banquet Saturday night at the Opryland hotel.
NAPT also offers all courses necessary to complete the Special Needs Transportation certification, including a Roadeo and trade-show project.
The two-day trade show begins Sunday evening at 7 p.m. and continues Monday, March 3 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. It features 75 manufacturers and vendors from across the U.S. and Canada exhibiting vehicles, products and services.