Guidance on transportation for special education students and equivalent school days

Maine Unified Special Education Regulations (MUSER) §VI.2.L state that “[i]t is the full expectation that children eligible under this Chapter will attend school the equivalent amount of time per day as children without disabilities in the same school and/or program.” MUSER §VI.2.L also provides that an abbreviated school day (defined at MUSER §II.1 as “any day that a child eligible under this chapter attends school or receives educational services for less time than age/grade peers without disabilities within the same school and/or school program”) can only be initiated based upon a child’s individual educational or medical needs.

School administrative units (SAUs) sometimes schedule arrival and departure times for special education transportation so as to avoid having special education students board and/or exit their bus at the same time as the general education is boarding or exiting the regular school buses. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR), interpreting regulations implementing Section 504, has stated that “transportation of a student with a disability should not be provided in a manner that results in the student having a shorter school day than his or her nondisabled peers unless there has been a determination…that a shortened school day is necessary to meet the student’s individual needs.” Alabama State DOE, 59 IDELR 297 (OCR 04-10-5001, July 27, 2012).

Although student safety and order may be relevant considerations, “safety and order cannot serve as a pretext for denying equal educational opportunity when it can be achieved by other less adverse actions and practices….The shortening of a school day for an entire category of students with disabilities, such as all students with mobility impairments who require transportation, is not an individualized educational decision and, consequently constitutes a denial of FAPE.” Castaic Union Elementary School District, 58 IDELR 234 (OCR 09-10-1008, Nov. 30, 2011).

Accordingly, transportation of a group of students with disabilities should not be provided in a manner that results in those students having a shorter school day than their nondisabled peers unless there has been a determination by each student’s Individualized Education Plan Team that a shortened school day is necessary to meet the student’s individual needs.

For more information or if you have questions about transportation of special education students, please contact Maine DOE’s Director of Special Services Janice Breton at janice.breton@maine.gov or 207-624-6676.