FAPE and the School Bus

The right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) does not end at the schoolhouse doors.

Students who have disabilities have a right to transportation as a “related service” when it is necessary to benefit from special education. A school district is responsible for providing transportation to ensure a student receives all the special education services outlined in their Individualized Education Program (IEP).

In a recent Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) decision, a hearing officer made clear that the obligation of a school district to provide appropriate transportation should not be taken lightly.

In Vladimir & Acton-Boxborough Regional School District – BSEA # 15-03957, hearing officer Lindsay Byrne found that Acton-Boxborough had failed to act numerous times, despite clear evidence that the transportation it provided was problematic.

In this case, Acton-Boxborough was contracting with CASE Collaborative to provide transportation for a 16-year-old student to LABBB Collaborative. CASE refused to drive the student due to evolving safety concerns. The student removed his clothing on the bus and struggled with reflux/vomiting.

In the decision, the hearing officer chastised the school district for failing to act, “Acton-Boxborough did not reconvene the Team to discuss the new information it had received concerning Vladimir’s transportation requirements. Acton-Boxborough did not evaluate Vladimir or his transportation environment to determine whether developing a plan to address the behavioral concerns raised by CASE could avoid the diminishment of special education programming Vladimir was then experiencing. Acton-Boxborough did not address the Parent’s specific request to change the transportation plan set out in Vladimir’s 2014-2015 IEP from ‘regular’ to ‘special’. No explanation was offered for Acton-Boxborough’s inaction.”

The hearing officer decided that “While reimbursing the Parent for some of the costs she incurred in taking up the school’s transportation responsibilities is a start, it does not meet Acton-Boxborough’s obligations to ensure seamless access to all of the special education services set out in Vladimir’s IEP.” The hearing officer also ordered that Acton-Boxborough complete a Functional Behavioral Assessment, update the student’s IEP to reflect that he needed special transportation, and convene the Team to develop a transportation plan.

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