Transportation in IEP Not Provided: “Sorry – We’re Short Staffed”

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My 4-year-old has an IEP for ADHD and attention/transition difficulties.  Transportation is written as a related service in his IEP but the school claims they are “short-staffed” and cannot get him to his program in less than 1 hour after the start.

This cuts his day from 5 hours to 4 and causes a problem for him as he tries to transition into activities that are already in progress.

This related service is causing a problem. I need some guidelines.

You are wise to do your research and look for guidelines on the transportation issue. Be sure to check your state’s special education regulations, your Head Start regulations/policy, and the local school district policy regarding transportation.

If you download these regs as PDF files, you can search for information using the word       transportation   . (Pete explains how to search PDF files in this post.)

To fill in any gaps, search for rulings from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and OCR, state due process hearing decisions, state and federal court decisions, state laws governing student transportation, etc.

Read the complete Q & A, from Building the Legacy IDEA 2004, regarding transportation as a related service for students with disabilities.

Q and A: Questions and Answers on Transportation from the US Department of Education

Question B-1: If a child with a disability spends a significant amount of time being transported to and from school, as well as to and from another location to receive special education and related services, is the child entitled to receive additional school time to make up for the time lost in transportation?

Answer: … However, the IDEA defines school day as any day, including a partial day, that children are in attendance at school for instructional purposes.  Additionally, school day has the same meaning for all children in school, including both those with and without disabilities.  In general, a school day for a child with a disability should not be longer or shorter than a school day for general education students.  However, if a child’s IEP Team determines a child needs a shorter or extended school day in order to receive FAPE, then appropriate modifications should be incorporated into the IEP.

Question F-1: When is an LEA obligated to provide transportation for a preschool child with a disability between private day care and the child’s preschool?

Answer: If the IEP Team determines that transportation is required to assist the preschool child to benefit from special education, and includes transportation as a related service on the child’s IEP, the LEA would be responsible for providing the transportation to and from the setting where the special education and related services are provided.

Question G-1: Must an LEA provide appropriate information and assistance to the parents of a child with a disability who are seeking reimbursement for mileage expenses for transportation the IEP Team included in the child’s IEP?

Answer: Yes.  If a child with a disability is receiving special education and related services and transportation is included in the child’s IEP, the LEA must provide assistance needed by the parents to be reimbursed in a timely manner for the costs incurred in providing transportation.

I see nothing that indicates the district’s responsibility to provide FAPE is less, because they are “short-staffed.”

Primer for Parents on Special Education Transportation

This Primer (2003) is still a good source of information and will provide some court references.  Transportation issues vary greatly depending on the child’s unique needs.

H. Shortened school day

“A district should not shorten the school day to accommodate bus schedules. See Palm Beach County (FL) Sch. Dist., 31 IDELR 37 (OCR 1998); Jim Thorpe (PA) Area Sch. Dist., 20 IDELR 78; Lincoln County (NC) Sch. Dist., 17 IDELR 1052 (OCR 1991). Students with disabilities must be given a comparable length of school day and week as nondisabled students, unless there is a compelling, specific reason (e.g., medical).”

Many of the details about transportation are left to the discretion of the school – UNLESS the issue impacts the unique needs of the child. It would appear that missing part of the instructional day interferes with your son’s ability to benefit from the general preschool education program. Delayed start would make transition to activities difficult. Are there notes or data from classroom observation to support this concern?

It is also recommended that ALL specifics about transportation be included in the IEP (i.e., specific circumstances under which transportation is to be provided (normal school hours, off-campus educational components, early or after-school instruction), the type of vehicle to be used in transportation, any specific equipment used in conjunction with the vehicle (any specialized or adaptive equipment),  the nature and extent of the transportation (where the child is picked-up/dropped-off), personnel needed to assist in transportation (aides, monitors, health care personnel), and any transportation goals and objectives if transportation has an independent purpose beyond access to education.

Request the IEP team reconvene to discuss the transportation issue, focus on the attention/transition concerns, and ensure all details are included in the IEP.

As with every issue, these concerns should be documented in writing to the school and the IEP Team.

More Q and A on Transportation

Database Questions: Transportation

  1. If a special need student is not getting, pick up because they forgot to include him on a bus route until they fix the problem. Mother has to travel by car service back and forward because she had a toddle, and the school is far from the house. Also, the school do this every year, which it was a mistake of the school. Who is responsible to reimburse the parents for the cost of the travel? Please note that transportation is on the student IEP and he has been going to this school for a couple of years.

  2. My daughter (3) has transportation marked on her IEP. First week of preschool, transportation was provided. Then I found out Friday at 410 that she was removed from the route W/ no explanation and no one could provide any information. I sent an email to the superintendent and all appropriate directors… here were are on Wednesday and no transportation has been resolved. I am a single, full-time working parent. Besides threatening legal action, what else do I do?? They MUST provide this transportation, correct? Cincinnati, OH for reference.

  3. What if a parent has elected to withdraw her student from his home campus and enroll him at another campus on open enrollment. Is IDEA required to provide curb to curb? Student was not getting it before and district policy is if a student is attending another campus on open enrollment parent is required to provide transportation.

    • If the parent has made the choice to pull the child from the home school (assuming services were able to be provided there) and enroll in another school then the parent is responsible for transportation.

    • The federal rules say the IEP team determines what related services, transportation is needed tor provide FAPE. To me it seems that district policy is allowable, since the parent elected to make this change, & the child was not receiving transportation previously.

  4. If my child is diagnosed with ADHD, can she receive a special accomadation for specific bus stop as well? Currently, the school is requiring her to walk 15 to 20 minutes to the bus stop. She is often distracted and is required to cross a street that receives all incoming and outgoing traffic in our neighborhood. I requested the bus stop be changed to the corner on our street that directly heads towards the further bus stop. They refused accommodation even though they know she has an ADHD diagnosis. Can they do that? I just worry about her safety.

    • If the IEP team put this in the IEP, it would be required. However, most administrators do not want to upset the transportation department. If you use the district complaint process, you might find someone who can & will help.

    • Chuck is right. Schools are bureaucracies. As a rule, principals want to reduce conflict with other departments if possible.

      I’m probably setting myself up by writing this but I walked a mile to school (1st thru 7th grade) in the olden days. I’m also a grandma who is concerned that many children get so little exercise. Can you walk to the bus stop with your daughter a few times, point out dangers and how to avoid them? If you do that, you would also teach her to be more independent – a good thing.

    • Bus stop locations have certain requirements in terms of distance from intersections, stop signs, lights. I realize there are more questions you have, but I learned this through my limited training as a driver.

  5. Can my isd refuse to print me a copy of a iep for new students?
    They told me to go find the previous bus driver and take hers, while she still cared him.

  6. If a student has a bus aide written into their IEP. Should our bus company transport that student of the aide fails to show up for work?

  7. Hi I am driving and picking up my 14 year old son everyday to his school. He has ASD. We are out of district and he goes to a Therapeutic School . He has been there for over 5 years. We had issues with a bus monitor 3 years ago and had been advised by his school. I removed him from the bus so as not to cause a scene for the school district. I recently was informed I should seek transportation reimbursement. Is this possible? My son’s behaviors were escalating getting on the bus to school as well as home. The staff at the school witnessed it as well.

  8. My son use to be full day at his school for autism and was provided bus too and from school. Now his day is shortened he has ABA in home and goes to school at noon. But because if this the school is requiring me to drive him for the drop off because they refuse a later pick up even though it’s at my home stating they do not have to do later pick up even though I cannot drive him everyday due to medical issues .. is this allowed?

    • The district has said he needs transportation, & then shortened his day, so they should still provide transportation. It appears that they are taking him home, so the transportation dept. wants to do what is easiest for them. If you have not done so, I suggest contacting the district special ed director They should realize this is not right. They may or may not be able to change this, so you may need to go up the chain of command, or make a complaint to the state.

    • What was your outcome? I’m in a similar situation. My daughter has a transportation requirement on her IEP. We chose to pull her out early for ABA. The special education administrator denied our request for transportation service at the modified time.

  9. For Non-Publics inside and outside school districts.

    As per IDEA, districts cannot shorten the school day to accommodate bus schedules but what about districts asking schools to lengthen the school day to accommodate bus schedules.

    Example: Non-publics inside/outside

    Two-hour delay for snow on a regularly scheduled school half-day; the school is running normal as a half-day. Can the school district providing transportation as a related service tell that school they are not sending buses out because it doesn’t make sense to send out buses only to have them on quick turnaround due to the two-hour delay and half-school day? (half-day pickup 7am to get to school by 8:20am; two-hour delay puts pick up at 9am at school by 10:20am; school ends at 1pm with 1:20pm dismissal).

  10. I am having trouble with getting a IEP bus to get my kid to and from school We have to ride the city bus to her bus stop Shes AHD and I think her haviing you wake up 6 is affecting her abetting out at school more I already have her on a good diet No unnatural colors No BHA or BHT and I count her grams of sugar 4 grams or less when she has to go to school and she gets natural sugars (fruit) She has a good healthy breakfast before school and something healthy to have to eat when she gets to school Anyhow weekday can I do to get a IEP bus ? Isn’t it illegal not to have one?
    I’ve trying to find the right information/documents but can’t find them
    If you can just give me a shove in the right direction or email me so I could talk to someone that would be awesome


  11. My daughter is 13 and in 7th grade. She has an IEP which states the she gets door to door service to and from school. Last year the bus was late or didn’t pick her up 28 times. Every time I called transportation I was on hold for at least an hour every time. I filed a due process at the end of last year. I had a resolution meeting a couple weeks ago. I have since received their proposed resolution. I do not agree with it. I have a hearing in about a month. I live in Las Vegas. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  12. We moved from a small town school to a large urban district. Our IEP from previous school stated no transportation accommodations needed, because we lived across the street from the school. Now we live ove 1 1/2 miles from school, qualifying for busing. The district says the only “special needs busing” they do is to have the regular bus pick him up at our house instead of down the block. My son has Autism, and the Previous IEP required a one-on-one para, including the para assisting in transitions to and from the school and classroom. The new district refuses to put a para on the bus wth him, stating his IEP said he didn’t need it. They will only consider it if we put him on the bus and he has a meltdown, which would likely involve police. Buses are independent company. Can they do this?

  13. Can a school only offer to provide reimbursement for transportation costs to parents & leave the responsibility for providing or lining up the actual transportation up to the parents?

  14. I appreciate this information so much! Very clear to the point, and with the legal cases stated for further support. I value Wrightslaw email, Yellow Pages, and books so highly. Thank you for supporting children with special needs, their families and those that assist them.

  15. More than a comment is a question, how long can they have my child in the bus, she is been hurting herself in the bus, she is in the bus from 2 hour to 2 hours in a half, she has ASD and ADHD. I am in San Diego CA.??

      • I am in California also and each district has its own answer to the length of time on the bus. The bad thing with California is our districts dont run/control the bus, its done with a 3rd party via contract and that company will almost always do as they wish.

  16. We have just moved to Washington state. My autistic child is used to curb to curb transport. We live in an apartment complex for the first time ever. They want to pick him up on the street about 100yds away. We are the only building set back and there is a drive through loop which passes in front of our building. Can I request they pick up here? I do not want him dropped off nor waiting that far from home. Coming from KONA it is cold and the morning transition, waiting long, or having to run will set him into crisis mode.
    Your thoughts.

  17. Our son has transportation specifics in his IEP that include that the aide “must be” familiar and consistent to him.It also states that the adie must be willing to use visual cues and social stories.The bus company put a sub aide on the van to be trained by our son’s regular aide for only 1 day, and then placed the sub aide alone with our son.Our son has many issues, and this is not working out.The new sub aide is not a familiar or consistent indiviudal, and seems unwilling to engage with our son.Our son does not want to go to school now if he is the aide. So, I asked to drive and get reimbursed until the regular aide comes back and can continue to model and until our son becomes comfortable with the sub aide. I was told “no’. Now our son will not get on the van and this is impacting his school day.

    • You can get reimbursed for “one-way” at the state rate. File a State compliance complaint immediately and request compensatory time for the time he has missed as a direct result of your son’s needs as stated in the IEP.

  18. Unless that IEP meeting is coming up within 2 or 3 days, I would document this and try to speed things up by sending the school a letter saying it is unfortunate the school is short staffed, but delaying his start time by an hour (or whatever) is shortening his school day and causing him to miss out on the service hours required by his IEP. State that the teacher is reporting that the change in routine is causing him trouble transitioning into classroom activities upon his late arrival. Add anything else, like his losing opportunities to practice social skills or whatever else might be a reason for his preschool IEP, or new behavior at school or at home due to his anxiety or unhappiness. Wrap it up with a request that they find alternative transportation, perhaps through a private company, as Debbie suggested.

  19. At the meeting, if the school still insists they are too short staffed, you might ask about private transportation. There are usually private transportation companies equipped to provide transportation to special education students. Faced with the additional expense, the school might discover a staff member to provide appropriate transportation.

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