In the Toolbox Training, we talk about how to count to ten. Of course this is “elementary” as Watson might say to Holmes, but in special education law, counting to ten is not so easy. Counting to ten is important because the school administrator has unilateral authority to remove a student from the placement called for in the IEP for only ten days during an entire school year. We call that ten-day period The FAPE-Free Zone, because the school is not obligated to provide educational services on those days. So we need to know what days count, which is where bus suspensions come in.
Suppose that Jessica is suspended from the bus for three days due to her misconduct on the bus. She is still welcome at the school, but the parents will have to provide the transportation. And they do. Jessica does not miss a minute of instruction. Do we count the three days?
It depends on whether or not Jessica is receiving transportation as a “related service” called for in her IEP. If her IEP calls for transportation as a related service, and the school does not provide it, then the school is not fully providing the FAPE that Jessica is entitled to. So those would be “FAPE-Free” days, and they would count toward the ten day limit, even though she got to school anyway. If, on the other hand, her IEP does not call for special transportation, these days would not count because transportation was not part of FAPE for her. So counting a day does not always depend on whether or not the student was at school. It’s about whether or not the school fulfilled its obligations under the IEP.
The Office of Special Education Programs affirmed this view in Letter to Sarzynski in 2012. This is one of the legal authorities we cite in the Toolbox book, which is provided to each Toolbox participant.
DAWG BONE: LET’S KEEP THOSE BUSES ROLLING!
Tomorrow: Why classroom teachers have a say in determining if a student has an “emotional disturbance.”