(From the 1995 National Standards for School Transportation, pp. 138-139)
- The school bus driver/attendant should know the characteristics of the disability and the equipment the student needs and uses.
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA guarantees students with special needs a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Special education must be designed to meet each studentís unique educational needs. Those unique special educational needs and how they will be addressed are laid out in the studentís individual educational plan or IEP. One of the things that the IEP covers is transportation.
- The IEP process has two parts:
The IEP Meeting
At this meeting parents and school personnel jointly make decisions about a studentís special educational needs. The IEP team includes:
The IEP Itself
- Teachers (1 regular and 1 special education, as appropriate)
- School administrator
- Appropriate related services personnel who work with the student (e.g., school nurse, physical/occupational therapist, doctors; social service representatives; transportation personnel)
- Parents or caregivers
- The student, if appropriate
- Transition services personnel
The IEP is a written record of the decisions agreed upon at the IEP meeting. The IEP defines the resources and services to be provided to the student, including when and how long they will be provided.
If the IEP team determines that a student needs transportation as a related service, and needs care or intervention exceeding that required for a student without a disability, or needs adaptive or assistive equipment, transportation staff should be invited to be a participant on the IEP.
- Legal Considerations: By law, this committee/team must consider several issues related to the studentís educational program. When transportation is considered as a related service, there are a number of questions which must be addressed:
- Can the student use regular transportation?
- If not, can regular transportation be safely used if supplementary staff, equipment, and/or services are provided?
- If not, what type of specialized transportation is required?
- Is an attendant or other qualified personnel available?
- Is a responsible adult available for pick-up and delivery of students?
- Options: In addition to the above considerations, it is often necessary to review various alternative transportation options to meet a studentís needs. Some alternatives frequently considered, and which must be allowable when determined appropriate are:
- Parent or relative providing transportation.
- Public or private transportation.
- Note: Consideration needs to be given to the Continuum of Transportation Services available to students with disabilities. The range of options from least restrictive to most restrictive includes:
- walks to school alone or with peers
- uses public transit one way
- combines school bus with public transit
- uses public transit both ways
- rides school bus possibly with modification or lift
- rides school bus with support network with or without adaptive equipment
- rides public transportation with support network
- rides integrated school bus with support network; with or without adaptive equipment
- rides modified bus with students with disabilities; with or without adaptive equipment
- rides modified bus with attendant; with or without adaptive equipment
- specialized pick up or bus ride alone with attendant
- specialized bus ride with specialized attendant
- needs bus alternative for out of town travel
- transportation inappropriate for student (may be eligible for home/hospital teacher)
- Service Statement: The individualized Education Program is a written statement of services a student is to receive. The IEP can only be changed by the IEP team. With regard to transportation, the IEP should provide the necessary specificity so the driver, school, parent and student know what services to expect.
- IEP Staff: While participating on an IEP team, a transportation staff member should be particularly vigilant so as to challenge transportation requirements that would be impossible to provide (such as maximum riding time of 30 minutes when the student lives 45 minutes from school), or appear to be unsafe, or are not understood.
- Discussion of Concerns: If at some point after transportation has been implemented, the driver, attendant, or transportation director find the transportation plans unsafe, a studentís behavior changes so dramatically as to create an unsafe environment, or the transporters need more information or assistance from the special education staff, any of the personnel listed can call an IEP meeting to discuss the concerns.
The Responsibilities of the School Bus Driver
- Know about your students and what they need.
- Know where important information is located.
- The route
- Manufacturerís instructions for lifts and securement systems
- The seating plan
- Emergency information
- DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders
- Special medical information
- Emergency equipment (fire extinguishers, first aid kit, etc.)
- Exercise universal precautions. You should have a body fluid clean-up kit , latex gloves, and non-latex gloves at all times.
- Donít use a lift without another experienced driver or aide until you feel comfortable.
- Only do what is within your technical expertise. There are lots of other resources to assist you.
- Donít rush. Take your time.
- When in doubt, ask.
- Safely driving the school bus
- A pre-trip inspection of the school bus
- Loading and unloading
- Safely handling and maneuvering the student and his or her equipment
- Loading wheelchairs using a lift
- Securing wheelchairs and other equipment
- Securing the student
- Maintaining the equipment on the school bus used to secure the student and his or her equipment
- A post-trip inspection of the school bus
- Communicating with parents/caregivers and teachers about situations that might affect the safe transportation of the student
- Check whether each wheelchair has 4 securement straps, a lap belt, and a shoulder belt.
- Check all straps and belts for defects such as cut, frayed, contaminated, or damaged webbing. Check buckles and hardware for broken and worn parts. Replace any parts with problems.
- Make sure the floor tracks and plates are free of dirt and debris so the system fits into the track securely.
- Make sure at least one belt cutter is on board.
- Check each studentís ITP (Individual Transportation Plan) for special instructions or precautions.
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