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The Oxygen Dependent Student on the School Bus

From time to time I am asked a series of questions regarding the requirement to transport oxygen on school buses.

The initial sequence of questions goes as follows:

• Do school districts have to transport a student who requires oxygen on the school bus?

• Who in the school district is responsible for decisions about transportation for a student who requires oxygen on the school bus?

• Do school districts have to supply oxygen for student use on the school bus?

• Must school districts provide a nurse for a student who uses oxygen on the school bus?

• Where can I get information about transporting oxygen?

Let’s take each of these five questions as a starting point to assist with the formidable challenge of appropriate decision-making for transporting oxygen on school buses.

1. Do school districts have to transport a student who requires oxygen on the school bus?
The right of students with disabilities to receive transportation, when necessary to travel to and from school, is firmly established in two federal statutes: the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, (more commonly known as Section 504) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The major objective of Section 504 is the removal of barriers that limit services to students with disabilities. Under Section 504, a student’s right to transportation is based on the need to travel to and from school to access education services. IDEA mandates that school districts provide transportation for students eligible for special education, when required for a student to benefit from special education and related services. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1999 ( Cedar Rapids v. Garret F.) on the requirements associated with serving medically fragile students in school districts. The Supreme Court ruled that there is an affirmative requirement to provide all medical procedures that can be delivered by an individual other than a physician. This requirement includes transportation. So the bottom line is, yes, school districts have to transport a student who requires oxygen on a school bus. Individual states are encouraged to check with their respective Director of Transportation to understand how oxygen transport is addressed.

2. Who in the school district is responsible for decisions about transportation for a student who requires oxygen on the school bus?
The procedure for addressing a student’s need for oxygen on a school bus should be determined by the student’s individualized education program (IEP) committee, including the parent(s) and appropriate committee members with medical and transportation knowledge. It is highly recommended to request technical assistance from school risk management personnel.

3. Do school districts have to supply oxygen for student use on the school bus?
At this time there is nothing to suggest that it is the school district’s responsibility to provide oxygen for use on the school bus.

4. Must school districts provide a nurse for a student who uses oxygen on the school bus?
The decision as to who is the appropriate personnel to accompany the student with oxygen during transport should be discussed at the IEP meeting and never be a unilateral decision. Individuals that are appropriate may include both nurses and lay persons specifically trained to carry out a specific IEP service. Always check with your state law and risk manager in the school district. Individual states have strict provisions in this area and heavily regulate requirements about whom and what is essential to perform specific (medical) procedures.

5. Where can I get information about transporting oxygen?
The following is a listing of resources that provide in depth guidance and information on transporting students with oxygen.

U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Guidance for the Safe Transportation of Medical Oxygen for Personal Uses on Buses and Trains.
• Florida State Department of Education. Technical Assistance Note. No. T-06-03. Safely Transporting Oxygen-Dependent Students in School Buses. Contact: Julie.Wammack@fldoe.org.
• Maryland State Guidelines (June 2002): Management of the Needs of the Oxygen Dependent Student
• Stay tuned for future articles on oxygen which address planning and assessing the needs of oxygen dependent students on the school bus, including equipment decisions, staff training and risk management.

Bluth is the director of the Office of Quality Assurance and Monitoring in the Maryland State Department of Education’s Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services. 

 

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