It would have been helpful if the court in New York had ruled on the substantive question presented. The issue comes up fairly often. The case involved a student with autism and an intellectual disability who attended public school in Bay Shore, New York. At the end of the school day, on two days of the week, the school district provided special transportation to deliver the boy to an after school program he attended. The boy’s grandmother usually picked him up from the after school program. But she died. So the dad asked the school to provide the transportation and the school said no. The dad sued.
The district court in New York tossed the case out. The parent should have requested a special education due process hearing. He did not do that. He filed suit in court and the court held that this was premature. In legal parlance, the father “failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.” Thus the court had no jurisdiction—end of story.
If the court had ruled on the legal issue, I’m guessing that it would have ruled for the school district. The district was not paying for the after school program, and had not identified it as something that the student needed in order to receive FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education). The school district provided bus service to the after school program because it would otherwise be transporting the student home. In that sense, it owed the student transportation at the end of the school day. But this after school program was chosen by the father, not recommended or paid for by the school. Thus I would guess that the court would have said that the school had fulfilled its transportation duty by delivering the boy to the after school program.
Cases like this produce sympathy. No doubt this after school program is beneficial to the student, and I suspect that the father would not go to the trouble of filing a federal lawsuit over the matter if a simpler solution were readily available. Perhaps he is a single dad, and thus the death of the grandmother puts him in a bind. But when we apply our cold blooded legal analysis here, we see that this is the type of dilemma that millions of families face, whether there is a disability involved or not. There is no disability-related need for this transportation service. The student is not being treated less favorably than other kids. So I’m guessing the school would have prevailed in this one “on the merits” as the lawyers say.
The case is Licata v. Salmon, decided by the Eastern District of New York on January 12, 2015. We found it on SpecialEdConnection at 64 IDELR 263.
DAWG BONE: “SPECIAL TRANSPORTATION” HAS TO HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE STUDENT’S DISABILITY.