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Medical needs/concerns included in IEP

Jill Farrell


My six year old son has Down Syndrome. We recently moved into a new school district. He has an IEP from our previous district. In his IEP there are a few transportation modifications in place; aide, smaller bus size and curb to curb pick up and delivery.

He is anxious when confined in a car seat. He does not tolerate loud noises well, especially while confined in a car seat. He grinds his teeth and pulls out his hair when stressed from being in a car seat for extended periods of time. 


Last week we attended his CPSE to CSE transition/IEP update meeting with our new district chairperson and team. Their recommendation was that he attend a program in another district 50+ miles from our home. They estimate the bus ride would be around 70 minutes each direction. He would be on a bus for about 2 1/2 hours a day in clear weather. We live in the Adirondack Mountains, so a fair amount of our school year is unpredictable winter weather.

I expressed my concerns with the team that he would not survive being on a bus for that amount of time. And made my opinion clear that I felt that is not a fair education option for him. 

His pediatrician wrote a letter sharing her concerns also. She recommended that his bus ride time be limited to 30 minutes or less. She also recommended that he have further testing done by his cardiologist to ensure that this daily agitation and stress not affect his current heart issues. The pediatrician was very frustrated and expressed that a school program over an hour away is not a viable option for him and therefore the district was not providing an education plan we could accept. We would possibly be putting his health at risk to receive an education. 

I sent the CSE chairperson a formal request asking that the 30 minute bus ride limitation be added to his current IEP. The response was “unfortunately, that program is our only option at this time.”

Does he have a legal right to be provided an education that in within his physical health limitations? Does FAPE, IDEA or the IRE standards provide him with another option? Children without disabilities in our district are not required to go 50+ miles away to get a reasonable education. 
Thank you for any advice or input❤️

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That is NOT an acceptable option and it is NOT their only one - it's the only one that is "convenient" for them.  But it's not about the school district's convenience - it's about what the needs of the child are, and it sounds like you have ample data/evidence (the pediatrician's letter) that he shouldn't be on a bus this long.

I don't know what state you're in and you can check your state department of education's website and/or call them, but when a child with an IEP changes districts, the new district usually has to either accept or reject the evaluation from the previous school district.  If they accept it, they will need to follow the "old" IEP.  So ask them point blank what in the IEP document they are unable to provide within a 30 minute bus ride.  Then brainstorm with the team ways to provide those services within a 30 minute bus ride.  Sometimes when you make them come up with specifics, they can't.  They just want to bus the child off somewhere.

If the school district rejects the previous school district's evaluation, then they have to do their own and come up with a new IEP document.  In the meantime, the "old" IEP stays in place and the new school district has to provide comparable services until a new one can be put in place.

If the school district insists on busing him, you need to decide if you want to do that temporarily until the issue is resolved.  If you do, ask the aid EVERY DAY how he did.  I would even ask to view the video footage from the bus every day.  By doing these things you are collecting data to show the school district that the 60 minute bus ride is not good for him.  However, I'm guessing since your pediatrician said it could affect his health, that you don't even want to try this option.  In that case, you may need to pursue options in your procedural safeguards.  I don't usually recommend jumping to due process, but this is  very time sensitive and needs to be addressed immediately - if he doesn't take the 60 minute bus ride and the school district doesn't offer an alternative, he will be without FAPE daily.

I would actually do four things at once:  1) Request another meeting and have your pediatrician attend.  (You may have to pay for her time there, so make sure she can provide her advice/opinion at the beginning of the meeting and then leave.)  2) Ask for an IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation).  I don't know if this is possible, but the best thing would be if the provider could actually ride with your son and observe his reactions to long bus/car rides.  3) File a state complaint (although those tend to drag through the system way too long).  4) File for due process.  Normally, you would be advised to hire an attorney for this, but it seems to me to be a pretty slam dunk issue that you could handle on your own with your pediatrician there.  Also ask for compensatory services for any time he was without FAPE because he couldn't do the 60 minute bus ride. 

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What services does your child need?  Does any one building in your district or another one that's closer than this placement have what he needs?

If the services he needs are only available 50 miles away, that's LRE.  A public school does not need to create programs for your child in their district.  They simply need to provide FAPE.  It seems like FAPE doesn't exist since 50 minutes is too far - longer than he can be in a vehicle.  I'm not sure that comp ed is the solution for this but I think that might be the only legal remedy in this situation.

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