For years, special needs transportation experts have discussed the need for administrators of special education programs to collaborate with transporters, and vice versa, when coordinating a student's Individualized Education Program. But, aside from managing the actual school bus ride (plus loading and unloading) or arranging other modes of transportation, should student transporters be involved in helping to ensure these students are not truant in the first place?
The answer is yes, according to Eric R. Herlan, a school attorney at Drummon Woodsum & MacMahon with offices in Portland, Maine, and Portsmouth, N.H., who presented on the topic on May 3 at LRP's 32nd National Institute on Legal Issues of Educating Individuals with Disabilities.
Taking into account a case out of Phoenix that involved a parent asking a school principal for assistance because her daughter would not get out of bed in the morning – the girl had missed 65 days of school as a result – Herlan said recurring absences could indicated an emotional disturbance or another unidentified disability. And this could merit additional consideration on the student's IEP.
Just as special educators are called on to review records and conduct interviews, observations and assessments to uncover if there are connections between a student's disabilty and excessive absences, according to the May 12 edition of Special Ed e-News published by LRP, Herlan told School Transportation News that student transporters must also play a vital role in identifying why a student repeatedly missing school, especially if the truancy is tied to their disabilities, bullying or harassment, or all three.
"It is certainly true that kids with disabilities are sometimes bullied and that might prompt them to not to come to school. It's also true kids with disabilities are sometimes bullies, and that prompts them not to come to school," he told STN. "If you have a kid with a disability not coming to school, you need to find out why."
He pointed out that more and more states have laws that require investigation and implemented action items to address and stop bullying. Along with special educators, school bus drivers and other transportation personnel must remain vigilant.
"They carry those duties to monitor for that kind of stuff, for bullying that might occur in those settings," Herlan added.