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Decision No. 16,071

Appeal of ANGELA WILHELM, on behalf of her son JOSEPH, from action of the Board of Education of the Onondaga Central School District regarding transportation.

Decision No. 16,071

(May 31, 2010)

Ferrara, Fiorenza, Larrison, Barrett & Reitz, P.C., attorneys for respondent, Donald E. Budmen, Esq., of counsel

STEINER, Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges the determination of the Board of Education of the Onondaga Central School District (“respondent”) denying her son, Joseph, door-to-door transportation.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner resides in respondent’s district on Case Hill Road.  In April 2008, respondent hired an independent company, (“Safety Rules!”), to assess the safety of various bus routes and stops in the district.  On April 24, 2008, Safety Rules! provided respondent with a report and recommended no travel on Case Hill Road given its steep slope and severe curves.

On May 6, 2008, respondent adopted a policy restricting all school bus travel on Case Hill Road.  Prior to adopting the policy, respondent had provided door-to-door transportation for petitioner’s son in good weather conditions.  In bad weather, petitioner transported Joseph to and from a pick up point at the Orchard Valley Golf Course.

On May 26, 2009, petitioner requested that respondent reconsider its May 6, 2008 decision. By letter dated June 10, 2009, respondent denied the request.  This appeal ensued.

Petitioner requests that respondent provide door-to-door transportation for her son during good weather conditions.  She claims that respondent’s decision denying door-to-door transportation was based on insufficient evidence and seeks additional testing of the safety conditions of her road.  She also claims that the designated pick-up point for her son is dangerous and inconvenient.

Respondent contends that the appeal must be dismissed as untimely and that its decision to restrict all travel on Case Hill Road was based on sufficient evidence and was reasonable.

An appeal to the Commissioner must be commenced within 30 days from the making of the decision or the performance of the act complained of, unless any delay is excused by the Commissioner for good cause shown (8 NYCRR §275.16; Appeal of Proctor, 46 Ed Dept Rep 575, Decision No. 15,599; Appeal of Henley, 46 id. 556, Decision No. 15,594). Although respondent adopted its policy restricting all school bus travel on Case Hill Road in May 2008, the district denied petitioner’s individual request on June 10, 2009 and advised petitioner that she could appeal the decision within 30 days. Therefore, I will not dismiss the appeal as untimely. 

In addition, by letter dated October 22, 2009, petitioner requested permission to submit additional exhibits pursuant to §276.5 of the Commissioner’s regulations to show that other districts use Case Hill Road and to prove that bus travel on Case Hill Road is safe.  Since these exhibits were available when the petition was filed, and petitioner offers no explanation why such exhibits could not have been submitted with the petition, permission to submit these exhibits is denied (Appeal of Lilly, 43 Ed Dept Rep 459, Decision No. 15,050; Appeal of McSween, 42 id. 59, Decision No. 14,775; Appeal of Ogbunugenter, 38 id. 107, Decision No. 13,994).

Regardless, the appeal must be dismissed on the merits. A board of education has broad discretion to determine how transportation is to be provided (Appeal of Reilly, 46 Ed Dept Rep 184, Decision No. 15,479; Appeal of McCarthy and Bacher, 42 id. 329, Decision No. 14,872).  In making that determination, a board may balance considerations of safety, convenience, efficiency and cost (Appeal of Reilly, 46 Ed Dept Rep 184, Decision No. 15,479; Appeal of McCarthy and Bacher, 42 id. 329, Decision No. 14,872).  Moreover, a board of education has both the responsibility and the authority to decide difficult questions in balancing the overall efficiency and economy of a transportation system against the convenience of individual students (Appeal of Reilly, 46 Ed Dept Rep 184, Decision No. 15,479; Appeal of McCarthy and Bacher, 42 id. 329, Decision No. 14,872).

A board of education may exercise its discretion when designating pick-up and drop-off points, provided that the board uses reasonable care in exercising such discretion (Appeal of Morgan, 46 Ed Dept Rep 474, Decision No. 15,568; Appeal of Girsdansky, 46 id. 105, Decision No. 15,455). In establishing a pick-up point, a board of education must balance considerations of pupil safety and convenience, routing efficiency and costs (Appeal of Morgan, 46 Ed Dept Rep 474, Decision No. 15,568; Appeal of Girsdansky, 46 id. 105, Decision No. 15,455; Appeal of Galdun, 45 id. 222, Decision No. 15,307). The law does not require a school district to provide transportation for the pupil directly to and from home (Education Law §3635[1][d]; Ossant v. Millard, 72 Misc 2d 384) and boards of education have discretion to require students to walk to pick-up points from which transportation will be provided (Appeal of Girsdansky, 46 Ed Dept Rep 105, Decision No. 15,455). Where a student’s home is on a dangerous road or at a remote location, the parents are not free from the obligation to assist the student in reaching the pick-up point. It is the responsibility of the parent, not the district, to see that the child safely reaches the pick-up point (Appeal of Morgan, 46 Ed Dept Rep 474, Decision No. 15,568; Appeal of Galdun, 45 id. 222, Decision No. 15,307).

Respondent hired an independent company to assess the safety conditions of bus routes and stops in the district. Based on a finding of unsafe conditions, the company recommended no school bus travel on Case Hill Road and as a result respondent discontinued travel on the road. Petitioner fails to present any evidence to rebut this recommendation. She simply requests additional testing.  Therefore, there is nothing in the record to show that respondent’s decision to discontinue travel on Case Hill Road was unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious. 

As to petitioner’s allegations that the pick-up point at Orchard Valley Golf Course is unsafe and inconvenient, petitioner fails to present any evidence to demonstrate that this bus stop is unsafe.  Notably, this bus stop was previously used for Joseph during bad weather conditions.  Respondent previously agreed to pick-up petitioner’s son at the Orchard Valley Golf Course as an alternative to Route 20 at petitioner’s request.  Accordingly, the appeal must be dismissed.

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE.