Advocating for Field Trip Bus Transportation: How to State Your Case
by Pat Howey, Advocate
My daughter uses a wheelchair. I received an email from her school asking if I would be willing to transport her on a field trip. The district can not provide a special needs bus that morning and get her there on time for the field trip. My daughter is the only one affected because she's on wheels.
How do I state my case?
Does the school have to get her there at the same time the other students will arrive so she doesn't miss out on any of the special activities?
Or do I have to settle for her arriving after the fun has already begun. Arriving late will cause her miss a cruise down the river.
Write a Letter to the Stranger
1. Review the "Letter to the Stranger" on Wrightslaw.
2. Read Chapter 24 in Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy.
3. If you are able, plan on transporting your daughter for this field trip.
4. Write a "letter to a stranger" documenting the details you have described in your email to me. Thank the school in the first paragraph for giving your child the opportunity to go on the field trip with her peers, even though the school will not be able to transport her with her peers.
5. State that you will plan on transporting your daughter on this field trip and that you will provide a statement so that you can be reimbursed for your actual travel expenses and your time.
set an actual hourly rate for yourself
use the IRS mileage reimbursement rate
give the school an estimate of what it will cost for you to transport your child
Note: If you must take time off from work to do this, be sure to put that information in your letter, asking the school to reimburse you for any amount of work time that you will lose from this arrangement.
6. Ask if the school will be accepting responsibility for insurance for you and your child, since you will be transporting your child for the convenience of the school.
7. Thank the school again for its interest in your child's education. State that you hope this will not occur again, because you realize that it is a burden for the school to incur additional expense for you to transport your child to field trips.
8. Indicate that should the school find it is able to transport your child, to please let you know as soon as possible. Otherwise, you will plan on being the "school bus" for your child.
9. If you end up having to transport your child, be sure to send an "information" letter to your federal Office for Civil Rights and state Department of Education, along with a cover letter (that you will also include for the school).
State that you:
are simply informing each respective agency that you believe the school's failure to act discriminates against your child
wanted to cooperate
transported your child this one time so that she does not miss out on the field trip
Indicate that you are not filing a complaint this time, but that you would appreciate any technical assistance each agency could provide your school. Ask for confirmation of your understanding that it is the school's responsibility to provide transportation for your child, just as it does for non-disabled children.
10. Be pleasant. Be cooperative. Be matter of fact. If possible, handwrite the letter instead of typing it. Be a "mom," not a "professional." Be sure to follow the "letter to the stranger" format.
If you do have to transport your child, look at it as a unique opportunity to spend some quality time with your child. Observe how the children interact with each other and, more importantly how the children interact with your child. Watch how the teacher interacts with everyone. This may very well be one of the highlights of your child's public schooling -- and a great memory for you!
I feel certain that when the school receives your "note," it will reevaluate its position on this, if only because the powers that be will suddenly realize that the school may be responsible for any accident you may have, cause, or in which you are a victim.
About Pat Howey
Pat Howey is an advocate who has helped parents obtain special education services and resolve special education disputes. Read more of Pat's answers to questions submitted by people just like you in Ask the Advocate.
As a member of the Wrightslaw Speakers Bureau, Pat provides training for parents, educators, and others who want to ensure that children receive quality special education services.
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