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Letter: Special ed students have bus rights

Published: Saturday, March 9, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

To the editor:

I write to alert parents of special needs children about the school bus policies of the DeKalb School District 428. The district’s busing can and must accommodate your special needs child, although the superintendent’s office will claim that they can’t and won’t do so.

We learned that the superintendent’s office instructs the bus liaison “to hold the line’ on all parental requests for changes to the bus service “no matter what compelling reasons are given.”

Unfortunately, this policy blocks access to accommodations that special needs children have the right to. The bus liaison will deny requests for busing accommodations and will tell parents what were told:

The district will not move stops for special needs kids; the district will drop off special needs children unsupervised, which can happen if the bus arrives unexpectedly earlier than the parent, guardian, or babysitter; the district won’t alert drivers to the presence of special needs children on their bus; the district will say that your child must ride the special education bus to get these accommodations.

Thus, parents who call the liaison either give up or consent to use the special education bus, unless the parents react like we did, with research, persistence, resources, and anger. We had to meet with the superintendent to change the stop for our child. What happens for other children whose parents stop inquiring after calling the liaison?

The proposed remedy:

1. The bus liaison should investigate requests for bussing changes that involve a special needs child. Requests should never be unilaterally and uniformly denied.

2. Accommodations should be made for children with documented special needs. These can include moving the stop, not leaving the child unsupervised, and alerting all drivers to the presence of the special needs child on the bus.

3. The parents should not be told that they must use the special education bus because it is not true. This practice is akin to placing all special needs kids in one classroom for the convenience of the teachers and district, a practice known to be unacceptable.

These rights regarding school bus transportation are spelled out by ADA, the Illinois Bus Transportation Administrator’s Manual, the IL Special Needs Transportation Manual, and the IL School Bus Driver Training Curriculum.

Mark Zelman


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