Bus Drivers Must Have All Necessary Information about the Needs of Students with Disabilities
by Caitlin McAndrews, Esq.
McAndrews Law Offices, P.C.
The Office of Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education has issued an opinion letter which found that a New York school district violated a student’s rights for failure to share necessary information to its transportation officials, including a disabled student’s school bus driver, prior to the first day of school. West Genesee New York Central School District, OCR Opinion Letter, March 9, 2015. The student in question was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, and a Section 504 plan was created to address his medical needs, including while on a school bus. The student’s bus driver was to receive, prior to the school year, important information concerning contact information, symptoms of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia, and treatment recommendations. In the OCR opinion letter, it determined that the district violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA because the district failed to review the student’s medical information with the school bus driver prior to the beginning of the school year, and that the Transportation Department did not receive the written documentation required by the 504 plan until after the school year had begun.
Consequently, this OCR ruling informs school districts that they must not only train school bus drivers to respond to medical emergencies during the school year, but must also ensure that drivers possess all necessary documentation, such as 504 plans, IEPs, and emergency care plans before the school year begins. Along these lines, districts should adopt policies governing the distribution and review of such documentation and the timeframe within which those documents will be provided. Failure to take these steps can result in liability on the part of the district and its staff for monetary damages if the student should suffer injuries or illness as a result of the failure of the district to properly and timely distribute this information.