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Key Issues In Transporting Special Needs Students

The safe transportation of students to and from schools is one of the most important services a school district provides. In case of special needs children, the service is even more complex.  There are a number of federal requirements for the transport of special needs children that parents need to know. There are also state laws which vary across the country. For information on these laws parents should contact their school districts.

Federal Laws

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that related service such as transportation be provided to those who fall under that act. The act specifies that this includes:


  • Travel to and from school and between schools
  • Travel in and around school buildings
  • Specialized equipment (such as special or adapted buses, lifts, and ramps), if required to provide special transportation for a child with a disability.

In addition, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states that a school district must provide non-academic and extracurricular services which includes transportation.

Entitlement

Normally, if a school district provides transportation to students without disabilities, it should also provide the service to those with special needs, irrespective of the distance to be covered. However, if a school district does not provide transportation to general education students, then the issue is complicated. The authorities must then decide if on an individual case basis if a special needs child requires a “related service” such as transportation in order in order to receive free appropriate public education. If such transportation is deemed to be necessary, the school district must provide it, irrespective of whether is if provided to general education children.

The Type of Vehicle

Typically, it is the school that will decide on what type of vehicle is best for transporting a special needs child. These generally include minibuses, cars, minivans and if required, specially equipped vehicles to suit specific transport needs. Unless there are special circumstances, the parents do not have a say in the type of vehicle that will be used.

The Need for Special Equipment

The need for air conditioning is a common one with special needs children. According to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (as amended), a vehicle with climate control is not required to transport a special needs child.  However, if the relevant authorities, upon examining a case, find that a child requires climate controlled or other specialized transportation, the school district is required to provide it at no cost to the parents.

The Time Spent In School and Travelling

The length of a school day is not within the purview of IDEA or any other relevant legislation. That is left to the state department of education to decide. It is generally accepted that a school day for a special needs child should be the same as for other children, neither longer nor shorter. However, if the special needs demand that the school day should be longer or shorter, appropriate modifications can be made to the child’s school hours. This will normally include time spent in travelling.

A special needs child may require specialized transport facilities for school and other activities. A medical transport service is the best and safest way to ensure that the child travels in the maximum safety, security and comfort.

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