The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE), Special Education Services (SES), is providing the following information intended to offer technical assistance to local educational agencies (LEA) regarding frequently asked questions about Transfers and Transportation for Students with Disabilities.
Q: Who is responsible for providing transportation services to a child on an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?
A: It is the responsibility of the school district of legal residence to provide transportation in accordance with State and federal laws. A child on an IEP has the same right to transportation as any other student. If children live one and one-half (1½) or more miles away from their school, and the district provides transportation, a child on an IEP will receive transportation like all students. Whenever possible, children on an IEP should be transported with their nondisabled peers. However, the need for and type of transportation must be determined by the IEP team, consisting of a parent, special
education teacher, general education teacher, and administrator. If the IEP team determines that transportation is a related service the child needs in order to access a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), then the service will be provided regardless of the distance the parent lives from school. Since the IEP team is responsible for determining the necessity of providing transportation to the child as a related service, it is imperative that the transportation department of the school district be consulted in this decision.
Q: How do open transfers effect transportation of a child with a disability?
A: Open transfers shall be awarded by the receiving school district in a nondiscriminatory manner; however, under local district open transfer policy, the LEA may decline a transfer request for a student on an IEP based on staffing, certain budgetary constraints, and availability of specific programs. If a school district approves an open transfer for a student with a disability, the receiving school district can report that child on their child count, receiving all State and federal funds allocated for that child. The receiving district will be responsible for all education and related services provided for in the IEP,
including transportation. If the IEP already provides for transportation as a related service, the receiving school district will be obligated to provide that service unless the IEP is modified prior to the approval of the open transfer.
Q: How do emergency transfers effect transportation of children with disabilities?
A: Emergency transfers are granted by approval of both sending and receiving school districts. The receiving school district must provide all special education and related services, including transportation, under the IEP. The resident or sending school district is responsible to pay special education tuition transfer fees.
Q: Who do independent and elementary public schools serve, regarding transportation of children with disabilities?
A: Independent school districts are responsible for providing a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to children aged three through 21 years old. Elementary school districts have the responsibility for providing a FAPE for children aged three years through the highest grade level of that school. If an elementary school district only serves students who attend Kindergarten through 8th grade, then their responsibility to provide transportation for a child with a disability ends when the child completes the 8th grade in that school district.
Q: If a child leaves the elementary school district and transfers to an independent school district, who has the responsibility for providing transportation?
A: Elementary school districts are divided into transportation areas in which one or more independent school districts must provide transportation for high school attendance. If a child whose residence is in the assigned transportation area transfers to an independent school district, then that independent school district must provide transportation for that child. Other independent districts may also enroll any transferred high school child, but they are not required to provide this transportation service outside their transportation area. In the event that transportation is included as a related service in the IEP and is
reviewed by the receiving independent school district, the receiving school district will be required to provide transportation, regardless of the transportation area where the child resides.
Q: How is transportation affected when a student completes the highest grade level in an elementary school district and transfers to an independent school district?
A: A special category of student transfer addresses students who have completed the highest grade level in an elementary school district. These students may transfer to any independent school district, regardless of the transportation area. When a child with a disability transfers to an independent school district, the receiving LEA, in consultation with the parent(s), must provide services, including transportation, comparable to those described in the child’s IEP from the previous LEA, until the new LEA either adopts the child’s existing IEP or develops and implements a new IEP. These students are allowed only one transfer under this statute. Thereafter, they are restricted to seeking an open transfer, as described above.
Q: What responsibilities do private schools have regarding transportation of children with disabilities?
A: Children who attend private schools may receive a different amount of services and are not entitled to any services or to any amount of services they would receive if enrolled in a public school. The services plan for a parentally placed private school child with a disability is not required to establish a FAPE, because the child does not have the same rights as a child enrolled in public school. The location of the services and transportation, as determined by these regulations and Oklahoma State law, must be addressed in the services plan for parentally placed private school children with disabilities who have been designated to receive these services. The cost of transportation may be included in the expenditures of the LEA to meet the proportionate share obligations.
Q: Who determines if the child needs transportation services?
A: The IEP team determines whether related services are necessary and to what extent the services are needed for the child to benefit from special education. The need for, frequency, and duration of these related services must not be determined by the category of disability, the availability of services, or the distance the child lives from the school where the special education program and related services are being delivered. It would be appropriate to have a transportation representative or a person with expertise in the area of transportation to attend the IEP meeting.
Q: How is the need for transportation determined?
A: The IEP team must consider how the child’s disability affects the child’s need for transportation, including the determination of whether the child’s disability prevents the child from using the same transportation provided to nondisabled children, or from getting to school in the same manner as nondisabled children. If the child requires transportation to receive, benefit from, or obtain access to a special education program, the LEA must provide it a no cost to the parent.
Q: What is included in transportation for a child with a disability?
A: Under federal regulations, transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education. Transportation includes: 1) travel to and from school and between schools; 2) travel in and around school buildings; and 3) specialized equipment required to provide special transportation for a child with a disability, such as special or adapted buses, lifts, and ramps.
Q: Is the school district required to transport preschool children with disabilities?
A: Provision of transportation for preschool children with disabilities must be considered on an individual basis by the IEP team. The team must consider transporting a preschool aged child to the site at which the LEA provides special education and related services to the child, if that site is different from the site at which the child receives other preschool or day care services.
Q: What options can a school district offer for providing transportation to the LEA?
A: The LEA may provide transportation services directly or contract with parents or some other person to furnish transportation. The exact miles driven and exact cost per mile to be paid by the LEA should be specified in the IEP. Based on mutual agreement between two participating LEAs, an LEA offering special education classes may extend its transportation services to include the transportation of children qualifying for special education in an adjacent LEA that does not offer special education classes.
Q: What are the transportation responsibilities for residential placement?
A: The LEA is not required to pay for the cost of transportation for children with disabilities who are unilaterally placed by their parents in state operated residential institutions, if the LEA has offered to make the FAPE available. For the LEA to be responsible for transportation to and from a public or private residential or day school, the LEA must be involved with the placement of the child and development of the IEP.
Q: Can a child’s academic schedule be lengthened or shortened to accommodate transportation to special programs?
A: No. Children with disabilities are entitled to the same length of school day offered to all children as established by Oklahoma State law and standards approved by the State Board of Education (SBE).
Q: Is a bus suspension considered a suspension from school?
A: A bus suspension would count as a day of suspension only if transportation is a part of the child’s IEP and the LEA does not provide transportation in some other way. This applies because transportation is necessary for the child to obtain access to the location where all other services will be delivered. If transportation is not part of the IEP, a bus suspension would not be considered a suspension under 34 CFR § 300.530. In this case, the child would have the same obligations to get to and from school as a nondisabled child who had been suspended from the bus. The LEA must consider whether the behavior on the bus is similar to behavior in the classroom that is addressed in the IEP, determining if bus behavior should be addressed in the IEP or the behavior intervention
plan (BIP) for the child.