Discussions from Law & Compliance
What are your current challenges to complying with federal law when it comes to pupil transportation?
For the most part there are ... times 50 for the states, though many adopt similar regulations per the U.S. National School Transportation Specifications and Procedures that is updated every 5 years. So what you'll see is a lot of customization. And many of the state standards are just that, so school districts have leeway to build on minimum requirements. The national specs call for pre-service and in-service training that consists of: - pre/post trip - school bus evacuations (for all eligible students and separately for special needs) - loading/unloading - reduced ilding - cell phone/electronic communications restrictions in accordance with state and local laws - road rage - distracted driving - aggressive driving - blood borne pathogens/first aide/CPR - bullying on the bus - sexual harassment prevention - drug/alcohol compliance and pre-, post-crash testing, random testing, etc. - emergency and disaster preparedness - confidential records - requirements for reporting inappropriate behavior of adults, including the bus aide - school bus hostage incidents - personal protective equipment - CSRSs - student management - RR crossings
If there is no law, regulation, or district policy that requires an air conditioned bus for everyone, then you are obligated to provide A/C to a student with a disability only if he or she needs the cooling as a result of the disabling condition. Even if you are a provided with a doctor's note, you can have the parent complete a release form to enable you to talk with the doctor and (1) determine the basis for the note - what is the real need and why? and (2) discuss with the doctor the inability of the bus to reach the stated temperature and (3) discuss options for transporting the child in a safe and appropriate manner.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a fairly succinct discussion of this issue on its website at: http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/buses/pub/numseat.hmp.html Individual states may also have regulations or guidance on the subject, too. In Florida, for instance, state Board of Education rules require that drivers must ensure exits and aisles are not blocked. As stated by NHTSA, optimal passenger crash protection requires that students be within the confines of the padded seating envelope. For these reasons, most local school districts route buses so that there are no more than two larger middle or high school students per seat, and work to correct overloaded conditions when they are verified. While state statutes allow students to be seated up to the rated seating capacity of the bus (three per 39-inch bench seat), they also state that students may be transported in excess of that number only in emergency circumstances, during which the bus must operate at reduced speed. The statute also requires prompt relief through rerouting or additional buses. This statute provides districts at least temporary flexibility to ensure students' immediate safety. To illustrate, at the beginning of the school year, when student bus loads can't always be accurately predicted, districts sometimes have to transport more students on some buses than they'd like. Districts correctly surmise that the students are safer on the bus and in school than left behind at the bus stop. Maintaining proper student loads is a complex balancing act that districts struggle with every day, especially in this day and age of tight budgets and having to do more with less. Thanks for airing the topic. Charlie Hood
Here's some information that may give you some ideas about the issue. The degree of risk involved and the commitments entities have made regarding supervision are key factors in determining responsibilities for bus stop supervision. A Mississippi school district anticipated the need to assign security guards to a bus stop where sixty students who had been previously expelled for violent behavior or commission of felonies were picked up to travel to an alternative school. (Doe ex rel. Doe v. Wright Security Services, Inc. (950 So. 2d 1076 Miss.App., March 6, 2007.) In the past, fights had broken out at the bus stop which made the need for extra supervision very real. The guards’ responsibilities were spelled out, but a particular guard bent the rules and gave one student permission to use the restroom unescorted. While there, the student was sexually assaulted by another alternative school student known to be a particular troublemaker. He, too, had been allowed to leave the stop unescorted. The court found that the fact that the security company was hired by the school district committed the company to prevent foreseeable harm at the bus stop. District personnel had trained security company people to address the very circumstances that actually arose. The court found that there was enough evidence of possible breach to allow the case to proceed to trial. I do not know what happened next. I wouldn't be surprised if it settled out of court. Where a school district is expected to recognize that there is a likelihood of danger in the absence of strong supervision measures, the school district will have a duty to add that supervision. So, a big question to be answered in the question Ryan raises is whether the district had knowledge of likely harm, and a duty to prevent it. Peggy Burns