Editor's note -- This article is the second in a two-part series discussing the definition of the related service transportation, discipline, behavior, alternative educational settings and expulsion from the school bus. In part two, the author focuses on Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, personnel training, transportation to charter schools and private school placements made by parents, multiple educational program sites and procedural safeguards and due process hearings.
QUESTION: When should transportation personnel attend Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings?
ANSWER: It is appropriate for transportation personnel to attend IEP meeting whenever a student needs a significant modification in his/her transportation services and/or the driver and monitor need to be knowledgeable about a special intervention. Transportation personnel should be knowledgeable about any special information in the IEP related to transportation services that they are responsible for implementing. It is important that special education personnel, related service personnel such as occupational and physical therapists, and transportation personnel collaborate when challenges arise regarding transportation.
QUESTION: What areas do the IDEA regulations require transportation personnel to be trained in to serve students with disabilities?
ANSWER: IDEA acknowledges the importance that all personnel providing services to students with disabilities, including transportation services, have the required knowledge and expertise to provide appropriate services. Therefore, drivers and monitors are dependent on physical and occupational therapists to provide training regarding appropriate positioning for medically fragile and young children, physiologists for behavioral management techniques for children with autism and emotional disturbance, school nurses to safely transport children with health impairments and mobility specialist for the transportation of blind or visually impaired students.
Exposure to sign language may be appropriate for hearing impaired and deaf students. Drivers and monitors are expected to be knowledge and equipped to handle children with different special needs related to cognitive, behavioral and medical conditions.
The interventions as an individual student may require on a school bus must be determined on a case-by-case basis by an IEP team. IDEA stresses the importance of better staff development activities and pre-service training programs that include appropriate interventions to serve a variety of students with special needs. The importance of attending conferences, receiving technical assistance and having access to research and best practices is acknowledged.
QUESTION: When a Charter School is a public school, must children with disabilities be transported to those schools?
ANSWER: Children with disabilities attending charter schools and their parents retain all the rights under IDEA. The decision as to whether a student receives transportation should be made by the IEP team. Decisions are made on an individual basis based upon the individual student's needs. One important consideration is whether transportation is required to access special education and related services. One cannot automatically conclude that because the student did not require transportation to his/her home school, he/she is not entitled to receive the service to attend a charter school.
QUESTION: Are parentally placed children with disabilities in private schools entitled to the related service transportation?
ANSWER: Special education and related services are not required when parents unilaterally place their children in a private school. However, individual states may have laws which exceed the "IDEA" requirement for nondisabled and disabled students placed in private school by their parents.
QUESTION: Does the IDEA emphasis on employment and post school activities for students with disabilities place a greater burden on school districts to transport students with disabilities to multiple locations during a school day?
ANSWER: Congress, in committee reports and the regulations, stresses the importance of transition services for students with disabilities which include vocational education training in a school or in a community location. The decision regarding transportation to multiple program locations should be made by an IEP team. Recommendations should be commensurate with the individual needs of students. If a student requires transportation to access (IEP) transition services, transportation is a required related service.
It is important to note that the ability to utilize public transportation is one of the transition services identified. Whose responsibility it is to train students with disabilities to use public transit services is a local school system's decision.
QUESTION: Do parents have "a say" in their children's transportation services?
ANSWER: Yes. Parents have the right to participate in the IEP process which includes discussions and decisions about transportation services. School districts should be aware of the IEP team's responsibility to consider transportation needs and decisions regarding transportation when a student requires specialized transportation services.
QUESTION: Do parents have the right to seek resolution of a disagreement regarding transportation services under IDEA?
ANSWER: Yes. A parent may request a due process hearing or file a complaint with a state Department of Education regarding disagreement over related service transportation. It is always advised the IEP process be fully utilized to avert disagreements and, when necessary, to schedule follow-up meeting to resolve areas of disagreement.
QUESTION: Can attorney fees be awarded for a dispute over transportation?
ANSWER: Attorney fees may be awarded by the courts for disputes over transportation when a parent prevails over the points disputed.
In summary, along the publication of the regulations, the Department of Education published 40 questions and answers. One of the questions asked was specifically related to transportation. In the July STN issue, this question will be reviewed.