Under the law transportation is a related service akin to services such as speech and language, OT, PT, and counseling. See 20 U.S.C. 1401(a)(22). A school district is required to offer transportation services if it is required to assist the child with a disability to benefit from special education. See 34 CFR 300.24(15)(a).
Transportation includes: (1) travel to and from and between schools; (2) travel in and around school buildings; and (3) specialized equipment, such as special or adapted buses, lifts, and ramps, if required to provide special transportation for a child with a disability. See 34 CFR 300.24(b)(15).
Is my student entitled to transportation?
If a school district provides transportation to general education students then it must provide transportation to special education students to any program to which it assigns a special education student. That is a district can not discriminate against students with disabilities by not providing them with transportation services. However, if a school district, does not provide transportation to the general education students then it must decide on an individualized basis whether or not a student requires transportation as a related service in order to receive a FAPE. A school district must ensure that they consider the IDEA's LRE mandate in making transportation decisions.
Should my student's IEP include transportation?
If the student qualifies for transportation as a related service then the IEP should clearly explain the transportation. If a student is capable of using the same transportation services as a student without a disability the IDEA does not require transportation to be listed as a related service in the IEP. See Letter to Hamilton, 25 IDELR 520 (OSEP 1996).
The IEP team should also take into consideration other factors when offering transportation in order to assure that the IEP offers a FAPE. For instance the team should consider if the student requires specialized equipment such as a special or adapted vehicle, a lift, a ramp, seat restraints, security devices, such as a harness or vest, a car seat, air-conditioning and/or tinted windows.
The IEP team should also consider whether it is appropriate for personnel to assist the student. If the student requires personalized services within the classroom, then it would be appropriate for the IEP team to consider whether the student required personal assistance while being transported.
A school district should also consider whether a change in policy is necessary to accommodate a student with a disability, such as allowing a student with diabetes to have a snack on a bus.
Where will my child be transported to and from?
It depends on what is appropriate for the student. A student may be picked up from a bus stop if it is appropriate but if their disability prevents them from being at the bus stop then home to school transportation may be appropriate. For example, if the student does not understand potential safety hazards then it may not be appropriate for the student to be picked up at a bus stop.
A school district will also be obligated to transport a student for an extracurricular or nonacademic activity if it is related to the student's IEP goals and objectives.
How much time should a student be on a bus?
Neither the IDEA or Section 504 specifically address the appropriate length of bus rides for students with disabilities. In general, a school district must consider the length of a bus ride, proximity of student's home to placement and overall impact on the student. Some states regulate the length of a bus ride by establishing a maximum amount of time a student may be on a bus. Excessive travel time can result in a denial of FAPE as excessive daily commuting to a placement may suggest the need for a residential placement. What constitutes an excessive amount of time, once again, depends on the student, his or her disability, overall health condition and norms for the region. A general rule, however, is that the student's daily commute should not greatly exceed one hour each way. See e.g., Bonadonna v. Cooperman, 557 IDELR 178 (D.N.J. 1985); Covington Community Sch. Corp, 18 IDELR 180 (SEA IN 1991); Kanawho County (WV) Pub. Sch., 16 IDELR 450 (OCR 1987).
Furthermore, a school district should not shorten the school day to accommodate bus schedules for a special education student. See Palm Beach County (FL) Sch. Dist., 31 IDELR 37 (OCR 1998); Jim Thorpe (PA) area Sch. Dist., 20 IDELR 78; Lincoln County (NC) Sch. Dist., 17 IDELR 1052 (OCR 1991). Students with disabilities must be given a comparable length of school day and week as non-disabled students, unless there is a compelling specific reason.
There may be other factors to take into consideration when determining the specifics of transportation as a related service for your student - if you need more help contact a special education attorney in your area.