Relevant Transportation Statutes and
IDEA: 20 USC 1401(22): “The term ‘related services’ means transportation…as
may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special
IDEA Part B Regulations: 34 CFR 300.16(b)(14): Transportation includes “travel to and from school and between
schools, travel in and around school buildings,” and “specialized equipment
(such as special or adapted buses, lifts and ramps) if required to provide a
special education for a student with a disability.” The IEP must include the type of vehicle, specific equipment,
circumstances under which transportation will be provided, pick-up and drop-off
points, personnel who will be involved, and goals and objectives for the
Section 504 Regulations: 34 CFR 104.37 and 104.43:
The Section 504 regulations also include transportation as among the package of
nonacademic services which school districts are required to supply to eligible
students and add that students should not be excluded from participation in,
denied the benefits of, or otherwise discriminated against with respect to
Legal Standards for the Provision of Transportation
No entitlement except for students who live beyond the mileage limit.
However, if schools elect to provide transportation (to afterschool
events, to students who live closer than the mileage limit, etc.), districts
must provide transportation to all similarly situated students with
Students with Disabilities: Districts must decide on an individual student basis whether
the student requires transportation to benefit from special education.
(Letter to Dubois, EHLR 211:267
(OSEP 1981)). If a child’s
disabilities make it problematic to get to school in the same way as nondisabled
students, they must consider what transportation arrangements are necessary to
enable the student to benefit from their educational program.
If the classified student can use the same transportation as nondisabled
students, then transportation is not a covered related service for that student.
School districts may not require parents to supply the transportation
themselves and then award reimbursement for transportation, unless parents
to Hamilton, 25 IDELR 520 (OSEP 1996)).
Students with Temporary Disabilities: Students who may not be eligible for IDEA services but who
have a temporary disability such as a broken leg are also entitled to temporary
transportation services if necessary to enable them to participate in school.
Special Education Transportation
Vehicles: District choices must be consistent with industry standards
and any applicable federal or state regulations for the transportation of
persons with disabilities. Yellow
school buses, vans, minibuses, private cars and even taxis may be used, although
the “LRE” mandate requires districts to transport classified students with
nondisabled students to the maximum extent appropriate.
Using alternative transportation is generally acceptable if the
student’s disability prevents the student from riding safely on a regular bus
or poses a safety threat to other students.
Districts may contract out for the provision of transportation services,
but their legal obligations remain.
Specialized Equipment: Specialized equipment that is needed to get a student into or
out of the vehicle (lifts, harnesses, brackets), maintain student safety in the
vehicle (restraints, security devices, car seats, seat belts, air conditioning
or climate control techniques), or address emergency concerns (two-way radios,
phones) must be provided if needed. IDEA
specifically mentions adapted buses, lifts and ramps.
Districts must keep abreast of new developments and technological
innovations for the transportation of students with disabilities. Schools must
comply with proper guidelines for usage of equipment.
Schools shouldn’t make substitutes for proper use (lifting/carrying a
student), should ensure proper securing and/or restraint, proper training of
personnel, and should maintain equipment in good condition, working order, with
Personnel to Assist Students: If personalized services are needed in the classroom, they
probably are needed on the bus. Bus
monitors may be needed to help students communicate; aides and escort services
may be needed for students with behavior problems or who need direct
supervision; nurses or others may be needed to provide services to medically
Transportation in and around school buildings:
Transportation includes access to the school building as well as movement in and
around the school’s interior, including classrooms and corridors.
Schools must consider and supply if needed lifts, ramps, curb-cuts,
elevators, specialized equipment like “stair-tracs” or other devices.
Wheelchairs may also need to be provided by the school for a student’s
use during the school day and school activities, even if they use their personal
wheelchair outside of school hours. If
the student brings their own wheelchair to school, the district may be required
to maintain and take care of the
personally-owned equipment while on school grounds.
(Letter to Stohrer, EHLR
213:209 (OSEP 1989)).
Extent of Special Education Transportation
All components and elements of the educational program: The district is required
to transport students with disabilities between educational programs offered at
a location other than the school, or offered at times other than usual school
hours. The three questions are: (1)
Is the educational program related to FAPE and set forth in the IEP?
(2) Is it strongly related to IEP goals and objectives even if not
specifically set forth in the IEP? (3)
Is transportation necessary to participate in that program?
If yes, transportation is required.
Examples include summer programs (extended school year); afterschool
programs if IEP-related services are delivered in that setting; remedial study
programs and tutorial programs; transportation to settings where related
services, transition, vocational, or other services are provided; private or
residential schools at which the student is placed by the school district; and
transportation to a place other than the home where home instruction is to be
provided. (Also remember that if
students without disabilities can participate in after-school activities at the
school, but students with disabilities have to go elsewhere for after-school
activities, transportation must be provided under Section 504).
Pickups and Dropoffs: The
decision whether to transport the child from home or from a designated bus stop
is made on an individual basis as part of the IEP.
(Letter to Smith, EHLR 211:191 (OSEP 1980)).
Appropriate questions include: (1) Is the child mobile or nonambulatory?
Can the child move from one location to another without difficulty?
(2) What are the effects of the child’s age and disability on ability
to reason and understand potential safety hazards en route to school?
Are the student’s maturity and reasoning skills sophisticated enough to
enable the child to make prudent decisions about bus travel, following
directions, and reaching a pickup point safely?
Will the student be susceptible to potential hazards on the way, such as
oncoming traffic, third party intruders, and peer influences?
(3) What is the distance to be traveled and the nature and conditions of
the route to a bus stop? Is the
route arduous or dangers for a child to navigate, given age and disability
considerations? (4) Is private assistance readily available to the student,
such as a parent or other person, including classmates, to help access the
transportation? (5) Is public
assistance available en route to the transportation, such as crossing guards. (6) What are the student’s general supervisory needs?
Curb vs. Door or Inside Home? At what exact point on or off the student’s property should
a student be dropped off? Case
decisions are mixed; some allow districts to drop the student off at the curb
even if the student can’t navigate the route from the house independently or
without great difficulty, while others have required schools to deliver students
to their front doors. However,
there is general consensus that district personnel are not obligated to carry
the student across the threshold or come inside to retrieve the student.
Unmaintained roads and inclement weather:
The school’s transportation duties are not lessened simply because an access
road is poorly maintained or the route conditions may be dangerous for the
vehicle. Districts must also
consider whether a student who usually doesn’t need transportation may need it
due to inclement weather. A
student’s specialized transportation needs come first and override contrary
transportation policies and practices, even if pursuant to state law or local