Special Education Transportation

“It’s the bus. It’s always the bus!” My former supervisor used to say that so often. So many issues around a school bus ride. Lots of kids, no seatbelts, unstructured time, no one watching them (because we want the driver watching the road, right?). And it goes on.

This post is long overdue. This month, in our Facebook group, we’ve been getting at least two questions a day about the special education bus, transportation, and the IEP. That prompted me to finally get around to doing this.

a special education bus

I expect that this post will be long but hopefully will answer all the parent questions about transportation and their IEP. Including, special needs vans, aides on school buses, and so on.

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It’s NOT the “Sped Bus”

Ok, before I get into IDEA and the special education bus, I want to step up on my soapbox for a moment. There are many euphemisms and stigmas associated with special education transportation. It might be the sped bus, the short bus, or who knows what else. It’s a school bus. I don’t care what size or color it is–it takes your child to school. If you hear someone using one of those derogatory terms, call them out on it. It’s ableist.

Now, let’s start at the beginning.

Is Transportation a part of the IEP?

Short answer, yes. From IDEA Section 300.34, Related Services:

(IEP) Related services means transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, and includes…(and then there’s a list)”

And if you read further down the page, you see this:

(16) Transportation includes—(i) Travel to and from school and between schools;(ii) Travel in and around school buildings; and(iii) Specialized equipment (such as special or adapted buses, lifts, and ramps), if required to provide special transportation for a child with a disability.

Wow, great, right? Not so fast.

Needs Determine Services on IEPs.

All IEP supports and services are based on needs. Like anything else, it’s a team decision and you have to demonstrate need. Transportation is eligibility based, like every other related service.

This gets more complicated for families in states that do not automatically have transportation for all students. Or they may have transportation for all students, but only within a certain radius.

For example, I believe in NJ, they have a 2-mile rule. That is, if the child lives less than 2 miles from the school building, they do not have to provide transportation to those students. Even if they provide transportation for other students.

But, you have a disabled child. You live one mile from the school. Now what? You have to get the team to agree that your child needs transportation based upon their disability.

I’m going to add the guidance document below regarding transportation.

Special Education Transportation

Here is just a sampling of silliness that I’ve heard about special ed transportation.

  • If you get special ed transportation, you have to ride the short bus.
  • All special ed transportation is required to have an aide.
  • Only (insert disability here) gets special ed transportation.
  • You can get special ed transportation, but you have to pay for it.
  • No school bus ride can be more than an hour.
  • All special ed vans are required to have cameras and it’s your legal right to view it.

It’s always a good rule of thumb to question anything that has absolutes in it (always, never, only) and that rule applies here. None of the above is true. (see what I did there?)

Well, maybe the camera one, but that would vary by state. Not all states require cameras, some do. The length of the bus ride has been defined by some states too.

Transportation on an IEP

What does the child need? That’s what it looks like.

If your child needs wheelchair transport, that’s what it looks like. Door to door? An aide on the bus/van? Like any other item on the IEP, you present the need, discuss the solutions. This would include any special seating or harnesses or whatever it takes to make your child safe on the van/bus.

There is no “well you must…” If your child needs a 1:1 on the bus, but doesn’t want the stigma of riding the short bus, argue LRE.

Think about what your child needs to access and benefit from their education, and how transportation fits into that. Then put it in Parent Concerns and go.

In 10 years, I have seen just about everything. Yes, districts paying parents to transport the child. It can happen! I’ve seen taxis at my son’s school. (Judi swears this cannot be, because you cannot leave a disabled child unaccompanied with a strange adult. I get that and agree, but I swear, that taxi is there, often!)

I know of one district that is taking a few kids 30 miles down a highway to an out of district placement. But, they stop halfway, let the kids out and put them on another school district’s van that is also going to that placement.

I’ve seen co-op carpools, medical transport like you see at hospitals, vans, minivans, buses,  you name it! There are so many specific issues regarding transportation, I couldn’t possibly address them all. Some kids require air conditioning because of temperature regulation issues. Not all kids can tolerate long car rides.

Treat it like any other need on the IEP. Have the data to show the need, the address it with this IEP related service.

Here is the Q&A document on Transportation, good luck and ask on Facebook if you have questions.

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