Question: What is the school’s obligation to transport my child if we take the Jon Peterson or Autism scholarships?
Answer: There’s no obligation on the part of the public school district to provide transportation just because your child has a disability. But, you can use the scholarship funds to pay for private transportation if the IEP identifies the need for it. Regardless, your child is entitled to the same rights and benefits afforded to his typical peers. That’s the gist. Here are the details…
No Obligation Under IDEA
Once you accept Jon Peterson or Autism scholarship funds, the school has no obligation under IDEA law to transport your child to the scholarship provider you chose. When you decide to take the scholarship, you are agreeing to let the school district “off the hook” for any educational obligations they had toward your child, including transportation, in exchange for a certain chunk of money that will be sent to the scholarship provider (school) you choose.
Look at IEP Section 8: Transportation
There are some circumstances when you can use the scholarship funds to hire an independent and approved transportation provider to bring your child to and from school each day. IF the current IEP identifies the need for transportation services, the scholarship funds may be used for that purpose. This would be set forth in IEP Section 8, entitled, “Transportation as a Related Service.” The form reads: “Does the child have needs related to their identified disability that require special transportation?” The “yes” box must be checked in order to for you to be able to use scholarship funds to pay someone to take your child to school. Remember, in taking the scholarship, you let the public school district off the hook – they’re not responsible for providing related services under an IEP.
Entitled to Same Benefits as Typical Peers
There are some occasions when the public school still has to transport kids to private schools, and this has nothing to do with a disability. Ohio Revised Code § 3327.01 requires public schools to transport all students, kindergarten through eighth grade, who live more than two miles from their assigned public school. Where a student attends a nonpublic or community school, the public school is still responsible for transporting the student if: (1) it doesn’t take the bus more than thirty minutes to get there, and (2) it’s not impractical for the public school to provide a bus. The public school will actually do practice runs if they need to – using the school bus, at that same busy time of day that they would be making the pick-up or drop-off – to see if it takes the bus more than 30 minutes to get from the public school to which the student was assigned to the nonpublic/community school. The “impracticality” exception allows the public school to offer the parent reimbursement for transporting their child when it would not be practical for them to do it on their own. For example, if the private school was 29 minutes away, and there was only one student attending that school, a public school might find that its impractical for them to transport the student at such a high per-student cost when it would make more sense and be financially prudent to pay the parent to take him/her. This is called “payment in lieu of” school transportation. There is no state or federal law that requires schools to bus high school kids; it’s up to the school boards to decide if they are going to offer that service or not.
If you are having trouble falling asleep tonight, click here for an invigorating read about transportation rules and regulations.
If you have a question or topic of interest relating to special education, please comment below and Attorney Linda Gorczynski will write a blog about it.