What to do when parents offer to transport their special needs child to school

5 steps to take when a student whose IEP includes transportation as a related service won't be taking the school bus

In light of COVID-19, some parents may prefer to take their children to and from school rather than allow them to ride the school bus. And in many districts, physical distancing requirements on buses have led to the need for more drivers, routes or both. One way to alleviate some of the strain for capacity is for parents to transport their children.

When transportation is included in a student’s IEP as a related service, school districts can always ask parents if they’d be willing to transport their own children to and from school but cannot require them to, says Teri Engler, a school attorney at Engler Callaway Baasten & Sraga, LLC in Oak Brook, Ill.

If the parents are going to transport their child to and from school, take these steps:

1. Document the new arrangement.

“If the parents are willing to transport, be sure to document that in the ‘Additional Notes’ section of the IEP,” Engler says. “However, I would not remove transportation as a related service because you still want to show that you believe the student needs this related service.”

2. Make it clear that the parents can change their minds.

Assure parents that you are ready and willing to resume transporting the student at any time and document this too, Engler says. You don’t want to make the parents feel burdened by accepting the offer to transport their child in case they do change their minds.

3. Offer reimbursement.

Offer to reimburse the parents for their mileage at the IRS-approved rate, as well as any toll charges they may incur in connection with transporting their child to and from school, Engler says.

4. Maintain a copy of the parent’s vehicular insurance card.

Make a copy of the parent’s auto insurance information to ensure that it is up to date and will cover any accident or injury that may occur in the course of transporting the student, Engler advises.

5. Do not discourage parents from taking advantage of transportation.

“The one thing that schools don’t want to do is to pressure parents into agreeing to transport their student in lieu of district-provided transportation,” Engler says. “There should be no discouraging parents from taking of advantage of rights they have under the IDEA.”

Florence Simmons covers Section 504, paraprofessionals, and transportation for Special Ed Connection, a DA sister publication.

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