The transportation of children with disabilities involves timely and thorough preparation outside of the ride to and from school. An essential aspect of such transportation relies on properly trained personnel. In a 2003, United States Department of Education (USDE), Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) memorandum, Ensuring Safe and Appropriate Transportation for Children with Disabilities, OSEP stated: “Transportation providers play an integral role in the school lives of many children, including children with disabilities…we believe that, for the safety and well-being of all children who ride school buses, including children with disabilities, it is crucial that they are appropriately and effectively transported by well-informed and well-trained transportation providers.”
In Bonham v. Bobersky, decided November 13, 2019, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (the “Court”) allowed “failure to supervise/failure to train” claims to go forward to trial. There, the Plaintiffs alleged facts that stated a claim for use of excessive force by a public school official against a child with autism, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment right to substantive due process. Overall, the Court agreed that (as alleged) the school district made a conscious and deliberate choice not to train drivers and transportation aides in the proper handling of the behaviors of children with autism. The failure of the school district to train staff in responding to the needs of children with autism, in light of the allegations, was sufficient to permit findings of deliberate indifference and a casual nexus between the failure to train and the constitutional deprivation at issue.
It is important to note that supports and training for drivers and transportation aides should be documented in the child’s Individualized Education Program. While drivers and transportation aides need not have access to the full IEP, they must (i) know if a child has a disability if the existence of the disability will affect their ability to properly execute their duties; (ii) be able to recognize the characteristics of the disability; and (iii) know the proper equipment and supports a child requires due to their disability.
As always, please contact the School Law Practice Group at Stock and Leader with any questions or concerns regarding training of transportation personnel who transport children with disabilities.