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Decision No. 14,970

Appeal of ROBERT M. EASON, JR. from action of the Board of Education of the Naples Central School District regarding transportation.

 

Decision No. 14,970

 

(October 9, 2003)

 

McGowan and Brownell, attorneys for respondent, William F. McGowan, Esq., of counsel

 MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the decision of the Board of Education of the Naples Central School District ("respondent") to change the transportation pick-up point for two children who reside at his property.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner resides on the lower portion of Parrish Hill Road, within respondent"s district.  Since 1995, that portion of Parrish Hill Road has been on respondent"s list of roads deemed unsafe for school bus travel.   At some point prior to April 2002, the Town of Italy made certain improvements to the road.  These included widening the road and creating a turnaround area.  

At the end of April 2002, respondent began to provide bus service on the upper part of Parrish Hill Road for two students residing at petitioner"s property.  They were picked up at the intersection of Parrish Hill Road and Lower Road.  When school began in September 2002, respondent provided bus service on the lower part of Parrish Hill Road and evidently picked up the children closer to petitioner"s property.

On December 16, 2002, following a snowstorm, one of respondent"s buses was not able to ascend Parrish Hill Road. The students on the bus were evacuated.  On the same day, another bus slid off Parrish Hill Road into a ditch when it met another vehicle coming the opposite direction.  The bus tipped over so that the front door was blocked.  The children were evacuated through the emergency doors.

As a result of these two incidents, respondent"s assistant superintendent, who apparently also serves as the director of transportation, suspended bus service to the lower part of Parrish Hill Road pending review by respondent.  Bus service to the upper portion of the road continued.  At its January 8, 2003 meeting, respondent considered whether to discontinue service to Parrish Hill Road entirely.  At the meeting, bus drivers testified that the road is too hazardous for bus service.  They also provided respondent with a letter describing the road as steep, narrow, winding, slippery and muddy.  They noted that there are deep ditches and drop-offs along the road, no guardrails, and parts of the roadbed have washed away.  Based upon the recommendations of the assistant superintendent and the drivers, respondent decided to terminate bus service to all of Parrish Hill Road.  An alternate pick-up point was designated approximately 1 mile from petitioner"s property. 

Petitioner asked respondent to reconsider, and at its February 12, 2003 meeting he made a presentation on the safety of Parrish Hill Road and the dangerous conditions on other roads where respondent continues to provide service.  Respondent declined to change its decision to terminate bus service to Parrish Hill Road. 

Petitioner commenced this proceeding on March 10, 2003.  He requests that school bus service be restored to Parrish Hill Road so that children can be picked up at or near his property, or, alternatively, that transportation be terminated on five other roads that he alleges are more dangerous than his.

Petitioner further contends that with the improvements made to Parrish Hill Road it is as safe as any other rural road in the district for school bus travel.  The two children who live at his property now have to walk approximately one mile to the current pick-up point.  He alleges this is a much more dangerous situation than driving a bus on Parrish Hill Road.   

Respondent alleges that it has never provided bus service to the lower part of Parrish Hill Road because no students lived on it prior to the two children moving to petitioner"s property.  Respondent claims that based upon the recommendations of the bus drivers and the assistant superintendent, it was prudent to terminate the route for safety reasons.  Respondent also alleges that petitioner has no relationship as parent, stepparent or guardian to the children residing at his property.  Finally, respondent notes that after petitioner commenced this appeal, two studies of Parrish Hill Road confirmed that it is not safe for bus travel.

I find that petitioner lacks standing to bring this appeal.  An individual may not maintain an appeal pursuant to Education Law "310 unless aggrieved in the sense that he or she has suffered personal damage or injury to his or her civil or property rights  (Appeal of Finkel, 41 Ed Dept Rep 74, Decision No. 14,619; Appeal of Carney, 39 id. 255, Decision No. 14,229; Appeal of Larry B., 37 id. 632, Decision No. 13,944).  There is nothing in the record to establish that petitioner is the parent or guardian of (or has any relationship to) the students who have been denied transportation by respondent.  Nor does petitioner demonstrate that he has been harmed by respondent"s determination. Therefore, petitioner has failed to establish that he is aggrieved.

The appeal must also be dismissed on the merits. A board of education may exercise its discretion when designating pick-up points provided that the board uses care in exercising such discretion (Appeal of Gulla, 39 Ed Dept Rep 716, Decision No. 14,358; Appeal of Rheaume-Wellenc, 37 id. 83, Decision No. 13,811; Appeal of Warner, 37 id. 469, Decision No. 13,907).  The law does not require a school district to provide transportation for the pupil directly to and from his home (Education Law "3635(1)(d); Ossant v. Millard, 72 Misc. 2d 384; Appeal of O"Connell, 37 Ed Dept Rep 22, Decision No. 13,794).  In establishing pick-up points, a board of education must consider and balance considerations of pupil safety and convenience, routing efficiency and costs (Appeal of Gulla, supra; Appeal of Rheaume-Wellenc, supra; Appeal of Warner, supra).  Where a student"s home is on a dangerous road or at a remote location, the parents are not free from an obligation to assist the student in reaching school or a bus pick-up point (Appeal of Gulla, supra; Appeal of Rheaume-Wellenc, supra; Appeal of Warner, supra) It is the responsibility of the parents, not the district, to see that their child safely reaches the pick-up point (Pratt v. Robinson, 39 NY2d 554; Appeal of Rheaume-Wellenc, supra).

The record indicates that respondent carefully considered its decision.  At the January 8, 2003 board meeting it heard testimony from the bus drivers on the route and the assistant superintendent, all of whom agreed the road was hazardous.  This claim was bolstered by the fact that two weather-related incidents occurred on Parrish Hill Road on December 16, 2002.  Respondent also heard petitioner"s objections at its February 12, 2003 meeting.

Subsequent to the filing of this appeal, respondent commissioned two independent studies of the safety of Parrish Hill Road.  The first study supports respondent"s decision finding among other factors: 1) the road is barely two lanes wide in most areas, and less than two lanes wide in others; 2) the road has very deep ditches on one side and steep drop offs on the other, with no guardrails on either side; 3) the road shoulders are visibly softer than the main road surface; and 4) there were areas in the main road surface that were soft and deep tracks were seen in the road. The second study found that the road does not meet minimum standards to safely accommodate bus service.

Therefore, on the record before me, I find that petitioner fails to establish that respondent"s decision was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable.  Accordingly, the appeal must be dismissed.  

I have considered petitioner"s remaining contentions and find them to be without merit.

 

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE